PATCH is valuable resource in Early Education

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    PATCH Kaua‘i Coordinator Phylicia Burris, Mary Lu Kelley who retired from PATCH, March 31, and Mayor Derek Kawakami celebrate the announcement of the Week of the Young Child, Wednesday at the Moikeha Building, Lihu‘e Civic Center.

LIHU‘E — Mary Lu Kelley has been serving the People Attentive to Children for more than five years before her announced retirement that became effective March 31.

Phylicia Burris started her PATCH journey on March 22 as the PATCH Kaua‘i Coordinator, or as Kelley described, “Director.”

Both women were present, Wednesday as Mayor Derek Kawakami announced April 10 through 16 as The Week of the Young Child. Kelley used the opportunity to introduce Burris to the Kawakami Administration as well as accept Kawkami’s good wishes on her retirement.

“For the past five and more years, I have loved coordinating support and training services in Early Childhood Education and Child Care on Kaua‘i for PATCH,” Kelley said, presenting a bag of fresh, locally-grown produce and fruits to Kawakami as a token of her appreciation for the support provided by the county. “I have been providing community and social services for about 48 years, and now, it is time to move to a new phase of my life.”

She added that Burris, along with her two children, is highly-qualified with her Bachelor’s degree and working towards her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education in growing the PATCH programs and services coming out of the pandemic environment.

“The future prosperity of our state is dependent upon the healthy development of our young children,” states the proclamation announcing The Week of the Young Child. “Current research emphasizes that the early years are critical to a child’s overall learning and social progress.”

Smooth and supportive transitions from early education programs into the public school system are particularly important for children with special needs.

“Ninety percent of a child’s brain development takes place in the first five years,” Kelley said. “Parents and caregivers with children who are facing this milestone of moving into public school benefit from the assistance of professionals, government agencies, and school and community organizations.”

These aspects gave birth to PATCH in 1976 — a private nonprofit organization to act as an advocacy agent to improve the quality and availability of care for the young people of Hawai‘i.

Involved with other transitional programs like the Department of Education’s Sequential Transition to Education in Public Schools, better known as STEPS, PATCH is Hawai‘i’s only state-wide child care resource and referral agency.

PATCH is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children that sponsors the annual Week of the Young Child that focuses public attention on the needs of young children and their families, and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.

The NAEYC, the world’s largest early childhood education association, established the Week of the Young Child in 1971, recognizing that the early childhood years of birth through age 8 lay the foundation for children’s success in school and later life.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or

  1. Mona April 8, 2021 9:33 am Reply

    Our young children so precious- so sad to see so many of these children with cell phones for their entertainment for so many hours a day,,,, concerned about their future!!!!

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