By Regina Canuso, MS, RN

I am nominating Ms. Jacqueline Rudisell-Scott for an Angel in the Nursery recognition, for her many years working with young children and their families, what she calls her “passion and love”. She began her early childhood career in 1976, working at Upstate Hospital’s child care center, eventually moving on to be a teacher in PEACE, Inc. Head Start, starting in 1989, whereand she worked forthere 11 years. She then created and ran her own childcare program, known as Shining Stars, for six years, but left when offered a newly -created position at PEACE, Inc. Early Head Start to work with a new pilot initiative:, working with parents, (including pregnant women) incarcerated at the Jamesville Correctional Facility. This is where, as the Head Start/Early Head Start Mental Health Coordinator, I first met Jackie, who was a stunning example of commitment, compassion and competence. As Jackie tells it, “the most rewarding part of the program was working with the pregnant women who gave birth while they were incarcerated…. Helping the women to care for their newborn child, providing social support, parental education in infant and toddler development. I also assisted them in their transition from incarceration back to their community as they assessed their own needs and reached their goals. That was the turning point when I knew this was my Calling and Purpose in life.”

Furthering that calling, in 2013 Jackie started her own business, Pearls Child Development Program, in Syracuse, NY, where she is not just the owner but director and teacher, along with her husband and a part-time assistant. Pearls has been providing care steadily to children of essential workers since the start of the pandemic. Currently, there are 10 children enrolled, all of whose parents are essential workers, including health care workers, teachers, postal employees, and social workers. Jackie has provided not just quality care to children, but much needed support for parents during this stressful year, including financial, mental health and spiritual support.

Parent Lakajia Coleman recalls that, when her daughter was 10 months old, she was “very nervous” about having to find childcare outside the family, but says that “Mrs. Jackie was very welcoming and loving from our first phone conversation, she made me feel at ease about trying something new and ensured my child would be safe.” Lakajia continues, “Now my daughter is 3 and we are now like family. She is excited to go every day,” and never does Lakajia feel that her child’s “safety and well being is ever a question.”

Other parents echoed that sentiment, including Layna Hurley, who added, “Being Caucasian and my daughter being biracial, we never once felt out of place… we always felt like we were home.” Parent Jade Ratchford, whose child has been at Pearls for almost a year, puts it this way, “It takes a big heart to shape a little mind.” We celebrate Jackie for her dedication, accomplishments, and big heart.