Keely Freeman, founder of Nanaimo Innovation Academy, right, was recognized for her contributions to child care with the Emerging Leader Award at the B.C. Child Care Awards of Excellence. Pictured here, Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, and Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA, with Freeman. (Submitted photo)

Keely Freeman, founder of Nanaimo Innovation Academy, right, was recognized for her contributions to child care with the Emerging Leader Award at the B.C. Child Care Awards of Excellence. Pictured here, Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, and Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA, with Freeman. (Submitted photo)

Nanaimo Innovation Academy founder recognized with B.C. child care award

Keely Freeman named Emerging Leader at this year’s Child Care Awards of Excellence

The founder of Nanaimo Innovation Academy has received a provincial award for her efforts in providing child care.

According to a press release, Nanaimo Innovation Academy’s Keely Freeman has been awarded the Emerging Leader Award at this year’s B.C. Child Care Awards for Excellence.

The non-profit academy offers licensed daycare for children from infancy to kindergarten age and utilizes a number of philosophies, including Waldorf, Montessori and play-based learning, according to the press release.

Freeman received the award due to her “knack for connecting people and mobilizing community members to make a meaningful impact,” the press release said.

She has committed to increasing her early childhood educators’ pay, with a promise of increasing their pay annually by $1 until they reach $30 an hour. Other initiatives include partnering with Vancouver Island University to support early childhood educator practicum students and one which will see local farmers introducing children to principles of nutrition and farm-to-table food, the press release said.

Freeman opened the academy when she was nine months pregnant with her second child and needed child care for her one-and-a-half-year-old son.

Elected representatives in the area congratulated Freeman on the award.

Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA, said he was happy to see Freeman receiving recognition for her work supporting children and families in the Nanaimo area and said she has shown dedication and a commitment to helping the next generation of early childhood educators.

“The [awards] recognize the child care heroes in our communities who have gone above and beyond to support families, and I couldn’t think of a better person to receive such an award then Keely,” the MLA said.

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