Norton, VA (November 2, 2016) – Pre-school students in Norton, VA are having more fun than ever. With additional funding and community partnerships, a new kind of learning is taking place in a new kind of classroom.

The pre-school at Norton Elementary and Middle School has expanded from one classroom they’ve had for the last ten years – to now, two classrooms, with a special focus. Thanks to funding amounting to nearly $20,000 from United Way of Southwest Virginia’s early education initiatives and Norton City Schools, and through collaboration with Norton Department of Social Services, the new classroom presents up to 18 more children in Norton, VA with a quality early childhood education.

Donnie Potter has been with the school for 8 years. She says, “Until now, my classroom has been the only pre-school classroom, and we’ve turned so many kids away. Some of them have never seen letters, they’ve never seen numbers, they’ve never played with a lot of the toys we have, and they’ve never played with other children or other adults. I think it was absolutely necessary that we added another pre-school classroom so we can give more kids the opportunity to learn, while still keeping a smaller classroom size. That way, we can take the time to give one-on-one attention to each child.”

The pre-school, called Discovery Readiness, focuses on children across a full range of socioeconomic levels and gives students individualized, developmentally-appropriate opportunities to learn skills that are not always covered in a standard pre-school curriculum.

Molly Perry, pre-school teacher for the new classroom, says she loves the individualized approach. “You figure out what it is that each of them do well, and find a way to incorporate your curriculum into that so they respond better to it. You let them discover things, and you teach around that.”

The school is now in the process of developing partnerships with UVA Wise, ETSU, United Way of Southwest Virginia, Virginia Quality, and the Lenowisco Health District, to extend the individualized approach beyond the classroom. Trainings are being developed for parents, so they can help their child continue to learn and grow, even when they’re at home.

Travis Staton, CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia, says, “Because of the generosity of people in Southwest Virginia, we are able to invest in this classroom and in Southwest Virginia’s future. We believe pre-school helps kindergarten classes run more efficiently the next year because those kids are better-prepared and better-equipped to be successful.”

For those wishing to contribute to support United Way’s early education initiatives, visit

To enroll your 4-year-old in the new classroom, contact Norton Elementary and Middle School at 276.679.0971.


United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia by forging unlikely partnerships, finding new solutions to old problems, mobilizing the best resources, and inspiring individuals to create lasting change in the lives of over 350,000 residents from all walks of life. United Way of Southwest Virginia mobilizes thousands of people to give, advocate and volunteer across 5,860 square miles (approximately 15% of the state of Virginia) in the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, and Wise, and the cities of Galax and Norton. For more information about United Way of Southwest Virginia, visit