The “earn while you learn” slogan is now appropriate for SHORE UP! Inc. The Community Action Agency recently received a $35,000 refunding grant from the PNC Foundation to help continue its Child Development Associate (CDA) Credentialing program. The CDA program is a professional development opportunity for individuals interested in the field of Early Childhood Education, and will help participants to develop their knowledge, skills and abilities as they earn their credentials.

According to Michelle Kogon, Educational and Development supervisor for SHORE UP!’s Early Head Start and Head Start programs, a high school diploma or GED is required for admission into the CDA program.

“We always want participants to have an interest in working with children. If they have previous childcare experience, we love that. However, they can obtain the necessary training from us,” says Kogon.

The four-to-six-month process to attain the CDA credential begins with an interview by SHORE UP! staff. Once approved for admission, employees enter the Early Head Start classroom as a CDA trainee or Head Start as a teacher’s aide. Employees work full-time and earn benefits. They must complete 120 hours of online coursework in collaboration with area colleges. Participants must also work in the physical classroom for a total of 480 hours, or 12 to 14 weeks. Home daycare and other daycare settings are considered classrooms, and volunteer hours will also suffice.

The CDA process requires an observation, a portfolio of activities, and participants must pass an exam administered by the Council for Professional Recognition. The Council makes the final determination regarding who receives the CDA credential, which must be renewed every three years.

“We take care of all the costs-books, application fees, coursework. There is no cost to the candidate,” says Kogon. However, the agency expects trainees who receive their CDA credentials to work as an Early Head Start teacher or Head Start teacher’s aide at SHORE UP! for three years.  Incentives for successful completion include a pay increase and one-time bonus.

“The CDA helped me to become a better teacher. It taught me how to keep the children safe, and I learned how to make sure each child is getting the best nutrition,” says Devon Neal, current Early Head Start teacher and 2014 CDA recipient. “The program really gave me insight on what it would be like to be an Early Head Start teacher.”

Kogon says the CDA program can also serve as a stepping stone for individuals who would like to further their career in education. It was just the catalyst Neal, who started work with the agency as a bus aide, needed to progress.

“After my CDA, I wanted more,” says Neal. “So, I went to college and graduated in 2018 with my bachelor’s degree in Human Ecology and Family Consumer Science.”

The CDA Credentialing Program has taken place for years at the agency. However, Chief Development and Communications Officer, Tameka Kenan-Norman, says this year the program is paramount.

“There are a number of people who are unemployed due to COVID-19,” says Norman. “This is an opportune time for those who have lost their jobs or would like to make a transition, to do so. All we require is a love for children, the ambition to improve your life, and the desire to give back to the community, because when you work for SHORE UP!, you are helping people and changing lives.”

Thanks to the PNC Foundation and Grow Up Great for their grant that supports Early Childhood Education.

To apply for the CDA program, visit


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