The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Saturday night bestowed its Juanita Diggs Educator of Excellence Award on Guyanese-born, Queens Family Group Daycare provider Shaundell Agrippa.
Ms. Agrippa, who owns and directs Nicky’s Little Sprouts D.C., Inc., a Group Family Daycare in Laurelton, Queens, was among a number of honorees at UFT’s gala 6th Annual Provider Appreciation Awards Ceremony at Shanker Hall, 52 Broadway in Manhattan.
“Receiving this award, the Juanita Diggs Educator of Excellence Award, has given me even more encouragement to ensure that what I do on a daily basis is now taken to another level, ensuring that the children in my care will continue to get the best education ever,” Ms. Agrippa told Caribbean Life after the ceremony.
“I was totally surprised by this award; yet, I remain humble,” added Ms. Agrippa, the sole recipient of the Juanita Diggs Educator of Excellence Award. “Thank you UFT and Tiprinia Diggs for this award that was bestowed upon me.”
Tripinia, the daughter of the late Juanita Diggs, a daycare provider in East New York, Brooklyn, after whom the award is named, told Caribbean Life that she was delighted to walk alongside Ms. Agrippa to receive the award.
“It was a great honor, because they (UFT) lived up to what my mom was,” she said. “I was happy to do it.”
“When it came to educating children, my mom was top-notched,” added Tripinia, disclosing that her mother died in March 2016.
Other honorees received UFT’s Outstanding Professional Services Award, Exceptional Education Award, Community Champion Award, Merit Award, Union Advocacy Award, Union Partnership Award, Distinction Award and the Jon Kest Award.
“To this year’s honorees, I want to say congratulations and thank you on behalf of our entire union for your devotion to your work and your union,” said UFT president Michael Mulgrew in his remarks in the souvenir journal.
Tammie Miller, UFT child care provider chapter chair, said the ceremony celebrated “the great work that providers do, setting children on a path for lifelong learning.”
Besides UFT, Mulgrew, Miller and others, Agrippa thanked her Guyanese-born mother, Paulette Hyman, owner and director of Jeremy’s Daycare in Laurelton, Queens for encouraging and nominating her for the award.
Agrippa said, eight years ago, she started her daycare business, with “the guidance and success” of her mother, after she had to return to work and had no one to take care of her son.
“During that time, I reflected and came to the realization that, once you know your ‘why’, you can achieve and survive almost any ‘how’”, Agrippa told Caribbean Life. “Success follows when you define what inspires you, motivates you and fires you up,
“So, taking care of children has enabled me to know my ‘why,’ because it sets me apart as an educator and mentor, who is educating the children of the future,” she added. “At first, the journey of wanting to work with children seemed complex, but the deeper reasons for wanting to work with young children has given me the understanding that this profession entails more than spending days with little children, although this is the best part.
“Teaching young children involves an intriguing study of child development, building connections and learning about family involvement, while allowing me to form partnerships with a wide range of families with varying beliefs and values,” Ms. Agrippa continued. “These make a significant impact on the lives of our children.
“I accept this award with heartfelt gratitude as encouragement and support for the continued work that I do, on a daily basis, to educate, motivate and aspire the children that I serve in my community and in New York City in general,” she said.
Agrippa migrated to the United States in the summer of 1989, from Guyana, to join her registered nurse mother in Brooklyn.
Ms. Agrippa’s mother had become a single parent after her husband, Agrippa’s father, was shot and killed while driving a cab in Brooklyn.
Despite several hurdles, Agrippa completed high school in Brooklyn, and graduated with an Associate degree in Liberal Arts from Queensborough Community College and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brooklyn College, respectively.
In addition, Agrippa has successfully completed a Child Development Associate (CDA), a national credentialing program, offered by UFT.
“Growing up in a new country, I faced multiple challenges,” she said. “It was challenging to form good connections in a place I knew nothing about.
“However, my mother worked tirelessly to support me and my siblings,” added Agrippa, the oldest of two siblings. “I am a stronger person today because of my mother’s diligence and tenacity, and the love and support I received from my family while growing up in Guyana.”
At Queensborough Community College, Agrippa wrote for the college’s newspaper, Queensborough Communique.
She was a member of the Golden Key National Honor Society and a member of the National Association of University Women (NAUW), Long Island Branch.
Through her affiliation with NAUW, Agrippa conducted community service and fundraising activities that helped to provide scholarships to young women.
She says NAUW places a high premium on educational and intellectual acumen.
“Coming from a family of entrepreneurs. I was driven to follow in that direction,” Agrippa said. “So, I decided to open a Group Family Daycare in Laurelton, under the guidance of my mother.
Two of Agrippa’s former employee Nicky’s Little Sprouts D.C., Inc., Alicia Thomas, who now resides in Mississippi, and Allison Lynch, who lives in Florida, said Agrippa is an “amazing director.”
“She is a very professional and caring person,” Thomas said.
Lynch said Agrippa is “the epitome of what it is to be a hard-working woman.”
Ms. Agrippa was honored with the Caribbean Life Impact Award last November.