It is with tremendous gratitude that I write my last column and leave “It Takes a Village” and the Carpinteria Children’s Project (CCP) in the generous and capable hands of Interim Executive Director Teresa Alvarez and CCP’s Board of Directors. Next week, I will take the next step in my professional journey and become an independent consultant in our county. To be honest, it hasn’t quite sunk in. When I started at CCP seven and half years ago, back when we were a department of the school district, I immediately felt the warmth of this community where high hopes for children and families and care for neighbors run deep. And I saw that Carpinterians can really get stuff done. 

With support from the city, school district, colleagues in other nonprofits and generous donors, the fine staff at CCP has accomplished so much: we became a nonprofit that works closely with CUSD in January 2017; began serving CUSD preschoolers with special needs; evolved the Thrive Carpinteria Partner Network of early childhood education and social service providers; hosted a community gathering after the mudslides of January 2018; took a leadership role in providing food to those in need (now a drive-through during Covid-19); worked with the public health department and Cottage Health Systems to pilot a program to support families at risk because of childhood trauma; and during the Covid-19 pandemic we led community collaborations to provide food, support for older adults and on-line activities for families. 

Above all, we’ve shown that we are resilient: CCP and the Carpinteria community as a whole. Successful children, healthy families and strong community are like three legs on a stool; they all need to be strong for the stool to be stable. In ordinary times and crises, the care, flexibility, can-do attitude, learning and accomplishments of CCP’s early childhood teachers, family liaisons, office staff and board has been remarkable. And it has taken our staff and our Carpinteria village to accomplish what we have. 

I can’t put into words the difference the opportunity to lead CCP and the embrace of the Carpinteria community have made in my life. You helped me see that, with many helping hands, I can lead an organization to do hard things in service of supporting families in their ongoing journey to raising successful children. You helped me learn that “the only way out is through,” and getting through is easier when you have friends and colleagues shining a flashlight. And I knew this already, but there’s nothing like the joyful squeals of little kids to brighten my day and remind me about hope and the power of love.

For us as individuals and as a community, I leave you with one last quote as we move into 2021. Glennon Doyle writes, “Just show up. Be brave. Be kind. Rest. Try again.” We have what it takes to do just that. I’ll miss being involved every day, but I can’t wait to see what CCP and Carpinteria do next!



Maria Chesley, PhD, is an educator and leader who believes in the power of communities to change lives. She is the executive director of the Carpinteria Children’s Project (CCP). CCP provides early childhood education, family support services and leadership of the Thrive Carpinteria Partner Network of early education and social service providers. Learn more at Maria can be reached at or (805) 566-1600. 

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