Bright Steps

Taking Action for High-Quality Early Care and Education for All Children in Knoxville-Knox County


United Way of Greater Knoxville is leading an inclusive strategy to transform the Early Care and Education System in Knoxville-Knox County. We are strengthened by our state-wide partnership with Tennesseans for Quality Early Education and the Bright Start TN Network in the development, implementation, and advocacy of the Bright Steps Action Plan.

There is a very real mismatch between spending on programs to change the brain and the brain’s actual capacity for change. Our brains become less efficient in the high school years and beyond, which is why greater investment into early care and education will have a much greater return. For every $1 invested in high quality intervention and educational programming for a child that is living in poverty, we will see a $13 return on investment. 

Children are born with great potential for development and learning and positive early childhood experiences make a difference.

While our K-12 learning environments are critical to a child’s
lifelong learning and success, 90% of brain development
happens by age 5Positive, healthy experiences in early childhood set the foundation for thriving academically, socially, and in life.

Bright Steps Action Plan: a call to action for every leader

The Bright Steps Action Plan focuses on the whole child needs of our communities’ children and students rather than those that are purely academic. The whole child approach acknowledges that developing and preparing students for life and career requires a focus on ensuring that every child in every school is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

Ready to take Bright Steps forward? To learn more about how your organization can create a brighter future for our children, contact Ellie Kittrell at

Bright Start TN & Bright Steps

In 2021, Bright Start TN, powered by Tennesseans for Quality Early Education (TQEE), was introduced to bring together a statewide network of community partnerships dedicated to accelerating early learning outcomes and closing achievement and opportunity gaps for Tennessee children birth through third grade. The mission of Bright Start TN is to tap the power of communities across the state to collaboratively design, implement and scale high-quality early care and education (ECE) systems locally while informing and advocating supportive state policies. United Way of Greater Knoxville was selected as one of six inaugural communities to join the Bright Start TN Network.

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