By: Cecile Anthony-Bryan
LATIA SMITH: DEVELOPING MINDS… This Maryland born Administrative Director, CEO, and Entrepreneur has been behind and in front of the scenes of educating, inspiring, motivating and cultivating our youth for over twenty years.
“I strive to deliver EXCELLENCE.”
Being the only child, life was good! I was raised in a single-family home, and my dad was not very active in my life until I became an adult. Until I was 9 years old, we lived in Baltimore City, then my mom relocated us to Baltimore County. All through the elementary, middle, and most of the high school, I was bullied. I decided in high school to take a stand and not to be like the other children, even when it came to dressing. Starting in the 9th grade, I dressed like a businesswoman with suits and heels, and that mindset alone provoked the bullying. Thankfully, I think experiencing so much pain, and anguish at such a young age, made me the person I am today.
I wouldn’t say I was a dreamer, but I would admit I have a compelling vision. My desire was always for children to receive the best education they can. Thus, so they will be exceptionally prepared for elementary school. It has been proven that children who enter kindergarten with an elementary background and a firm foundation, excel a significant percent higher than those without.
As I mentioned before, my vision has always been compelling. Although I always had a love for children and education, early in my life I wanted to be a lawyer, yet my love for children and education conquered all. I started working for a young lady in the late 80s who owned four (4) licensed centers. After working for her for many years, I operated four (4) of her licensed childcare centers. She figured with all my experience and knowledge, I could open my own center and then my interest in daycare increased. I worked in her administrative office, and I knew the entire licensing regulation, hiring, payroll, account receivables/payables and professional aspects of the business. Once she knew that I had it down pack, she guided me into opening my own. After watching and learning from her, I knew I could run my own center.
I dedicated my time to becoming the best child care center in Baltimore County, Maryland. Especially, since this is where I am born and raised, why wouldn’t I want nothing but the best for me and my hometown!
When starting my business, I had to make many important decisions: The two most important ones were the naming and funding. The name was easy, I knew what I wanted for our children, so I came up with “Developing Minds Quality Child Care Center, Inc.” I wanted to develop the minds of our young children and give quality care to them and their families. On September 30, 1996, I opened my doors with three (3) children and six (6) staff. Needless to say, my mom was there with me from day one. We were licensed for 64 children and quickly reached capacity. November of 2002, it was time for an expansion, and again, I set forth my biggest goal to relocate to a new facility where our capacity jumped to 144 children.
God has blessed me with a gift I never knew I had. My new center was able to educate, love, and nourish both infants and toddlers. Then I changed the name to Developing Minds Quality Infant & Child Care Center, Inc. (“Developing Minds”), just in time for my newborn baby to attend. Nine years later, my vision became bigger. I wanted to help more children. With the help of an awesome staff, I put in motion another expansion. December 2010, I relocated to a facility in Windsor Mill where I could build the interior the way I wanted it. It housed 174 children and 41 staff. Yes, I love what I do. We have a graduation every year at Martin’s West and our children display all they have accomplished during the school year.
My biggest influence was and still is my mother, Victoria Harris, and my grandmother, Gloria Byrd. Best words to describe these two strong women are “Phenomenal!” My mother always taught me to stand tall and strong and never let my circumstances define who I am nor who I can become. She has always been supportive from day one and still remains my #1 supporter. My grandmother was also very supportive. To this day, both of them work along with me at Developing Minds. Mind you, my grandmother is 85 and gets around better than a 45-year-old.
“I have always had pride in myself and my staff. Because of this, I will only deliver EXCELLENCE to all of my children. I truly feel that the staff and children at the center are an extension of my own loving family and I’ll continue to do all I can to help every child at Developing Minds continue to “reach for the stars!”
My advice to others who have a dream is that “Dreams/Visions only come to manifest when you put God first.” Make it your passion, and then put it into action. Other than that, it’s just a thought. The best way to succeed is to do what you love.
I am driven by God, my mother, and my passion I have for children. Seeing my children come to the center one way and leaving with the education well above their age level gives me joy. One of this year’s great accomplishments and one that fills me with pride was when our children recited at this year’s graduation sharing with family and friends that they knew how to count from 1 to 10 in five different languages (Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, and Swahili). I am talking about 4 and 5 years old. The true definition of Developing Minds.
The childcare business is very competitive, but the difference with Developing Minds is that we strive to push our children to their greatest potential. “I can’t” is never an option! Our kids are scholars. Some have been advanced to grades beyond their age group. Children require love and guidance, we remain strong advocates in their lives and development. Often we work with parents to get specialized care and/or additional assistance to increase their child’s growth. Yes, we work with myriad organizations with greater resources for the advancement of our little ones. The impact is the Key. “Success is one thing, the impact is another!” My staff and I strive to positively impact the children and the community we serve.
What makes me a POWERHOUSE is “I Do Not Play About My Children, All 174 of Them.” I make it known to my parents when they walk through those doors and sign those enrollment papers, that their baby(ies) just became our baby(ies). I am there to greet my babies when they arrive and I am there to say good-bye when they go home. I go to bat for the well-being and education of our kids. I lose sleep over them, thinking of ways to enhance Developing Minds for them. I’m a POWERHOUSE that builds others up as well. I have assisted and coached many women in opening childcare facilities to ultimately develop their children’s minds. You see, it’s not just about me and my center, when we have children all over the world who need love, nourishment, and education. I won’t stop, can’t imagine stopping, and don’t feel a need to stop until God says I’m done.
“Our Children Are Reaching For The Stars.”
My plan for Developing Minds in the next five years is to build a facility that can accommodate 200 inspiring children and have a certified Kindergarten Program. Giving back to the community that I grew up in has and will continue to play a role in my passion for our kids. 20 years strong, trust me…Developing Minds is here to stay!
“God makes everything possible!”
If you are in the Baltimore, Maryland area and have a young child or knows someone with a young child and is interested in Developing Minds, a great school doing great work, feel free to send an email to Latia@developingmindschildcare.com.