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TOP Star

About TOP Star

TOP Star stands for Teaching Obesity Prevention in Early Child Care Settings.

Top Star is a FREE Utah-based program that helps early childcare facilities improve their nutrition, physical activity, and breastfeeding policies. TOP Star also offers free technical assistance and resources to participants.

Benefits

Benefits for Centers
Facilities that choose to be part of the TOP Star program know the changes they make within their facilities will have a lifelong impact on the children and persons they care for. Facilities can promote and market their TOP Star endorsement to parents and the community to increase marketability. They are also able to earn continuing education hours to fulfill credit towards the Child Development Associate, Career Ladder Credit, Child Care Licensing, or Child Care Quality System. Facilities also receive fun incentives upon completion of the program such as gift cards, toys, access to special events, monthly newsletters, and more!

Benefits for Families
Parents benefit from TOP Star by knowing their child is in a healthy environment. These healthy behaviors may transfer to the home, making the healthy choice the easy choice. The early years are the best time for children to develop lifelong habits that reduce the risk of obesity and chronic diseases.

Process

Facilities can become TOP Star endorsed in four steps:

  1. Complete a pre-assessment
  2. Develop and implement an action plan to improve current policies
  3. Participate in six online training modules
  4. Complete a post-assessment

If you are interested in learning more about the TOP Star or Persons with Disabilities programs, please email TOPStar@slco.org.

Endorsed Centers

Becoming TOP Star endorsed is not an easy task. Below are the facilities in Salt Lake County that have put forth time and effort to improve their nutrition, physical activity, and breastfeeding environments for the children and adults in their care. (See endorsed facilities in other counties in Utah.)

Facility Name Level
ABC Great Beginnings Murray 5
ABC Great Beginnings Redwood 5
ABC Great Beginnings Riverton 5
ABC Great Beginnings South Jordan 3
ABC Great Beginnings West Valley 5
Allison Cannon Daycare 4
Ameris Academy Inc. 4
Amy's Home Daycare 5
Andrea's Daycare 5
Ann's Daycare 5
Annie's Childcare 5
Bear Essentials Academy 5
Bear Essentials Next Generation Kids 5
Bennion Learning Center 5
Boys & Girls Club of South Valley 3
Brighter Steps #1 4
Brighter Steps #2 5
Bright Start 4
Buttons 'n Bows Preschool & Childcare 5
Cheryl Nelson’s Daycare 3
Cocoon Daycare 5
Compass Preschool Midvale 5
Compass Preschool Murray 5
Concordia Lutheran Elementary and Learning Center 5
Country Kids Academy 3
Creative Learning Academy (DA Location) 5
Creative Learning Academy (Murray) 5
Creative Learning Academy (SL County) 5
Creative Learning Academy of Utah (SSL) 5
Creative Learning Academy of Utah (WV) 5
D & K Daycare/Preschool 5
Fun Learning Daycare 5
Helena Taylor 4
Here We Grow Child Development Center 5
Holly's Family Child Care 5
Intermountain Child Development Center 5
Jessica Mecham DBA Preschool Playhouse 4
Josephine's Daycare 4
Katydid Cove Early Learning 5
Kelli Collins 5
Kid's Life Child Care 3
Kidz Academy Preschool and Childcare 5
KOPFC Childcare 4
Learning Land Childcare 5
Learning Tree East 4
Learning Tree Southwest 4
Learning Tree West 4
Leary Family Childcare 3
Lesly's Friends Child Care 5
Lina’s Child Care 5
Lit'l Scholars Learning Center Sugar House 5
Little Angels Child Care 5
Little Campers Childcare 5
Little Clovers Academy 5
Little Critters Learning Center 5
Little Geniuses Learning Center Midvale 5
Little Geniuses Learning Center Riverton 5
Little Geniuses Learning Center Sugar House 5
Little Minds Academy 5
Little Orchard Taylorsville 5
Little Rascals Childcare-Preschool 5
Lola's Playhouse 5
Lolie Eccles Early Education Center 5
Luna Academy Preschool & Childcare 5
Martha's Day Care 3
Marycarmen's Daycare 5
Milena's Childcare 5
Ms. Stephanie's 5
My Childcare Academy 5
Neighborhood House Association 4
Panda Child Care 5
Panda Child Care #2 4
Peggy Harris 5
Peggy J. Dipo 5
Petit Explorer Preschool 5
Pratt's Little Ol' School House 4
Puddle Jumpers CDC 5
Rock-A-Bye Infant and Child Care Center 5
Salt Lake County Childcare-EHS Central City #3634 4
Salt Lake County Childcare-EHS Copperview Community #5966 4
Salt Lake County Childcare-EHS South Salt Lake #44515 4
Samantha Wyatt 3
Small World Child Care 4
Smart Kids 3 5
Smart Kids I 5
Smart Kids II 4
Smart Kids Kearns 5
Smart Kids Redwood 4
Smart Start Learning Center 5
Sproutlets Academy 5
Star Brite Kids 5
Sunshine Academy Magna 5
Sunshine Academy West Valley City 5
Superior Child Care 5
Susan's Lullaby Nursery 5
Sweet Heart Home Daycare 5
Tiny Humans Childcare 5
Twenty-Four/Seven Daycare 2
The Winner School 4

Awards

The Salt Lake County Health Department recognizes outstanding work providers do for our community. Here are some highlights:

TOP Star of the Year: Sylvia Abalos

Sylvia with Hillary, the TOPStar CoordinatorSylvia Abalos earned TOP Star recognition in 2016; she was the second childcare provider in Salt Lake County to join the program. Since then, she has been an instrumental support to the program.

I first met Sylvia in 2019 when I joined the Salt Lake County Health Department. Jessica (the old TOP Star coordinator) and I had gone to Sylvia’s home for a re-endorsement visit. Upon arrival, Sylvia and her cute dog greeted us with hugs, kisses, and a big smile. Throughout our visit, Sylvia eagerly shared with me all the exciting things she had been working on.

One of the things Sylvia shared with me that day was that she had recently received a grant so she could build an extension onto her home to install a small indoor playground and climbing wall. Furthermore, she took me outside and showed me her program’s garden; and she also told me about her next project, which was to implement an outdoor classroom in her backyard.

Syliva is a champion for TOP Star participation. I began distributing the monthly TOP Star newsletters in 2019. These newsletters offer healthy recipes, upcoming events, contests, and much more. Without fail, Sylvia always shares information from the monthly newsletter with the families of the children who attend her program. She also tries all the recipes, participates in all the contests, and completes all the recommended activities with the children in her care.

Not only does Sylvia participate in the monthly newsletter activities, but she goes above and beyond to make every activity incredible for the children. In October 2021, the newsletter shared information about Fire Safety Week. Sylvia took it upon herself to invite the fire department to come to her home to teach the children about fire safety. Though the fire department was unable to come, they were able to do a drive by in their firetrucks and honk their horns for the kids. Sylvia had also invited Gracie, the kids’ favorite librarian, to come and read books on fire safety. Gracie read books and distributed fire hats and badges to all the kids.

In addition to going above and beyond for her childcare program, Sylvia also goes above and beyond for her community. In summer of 2021, Sylvia built and installed a “Little Free Library” in her front yard. A “Little Free Library” is where anyone can “take a book or share a book” for free. To help advertise this new community addition, she held an inaugural unveiling celebration complete with a food truck and refreshments. Sylvia also painted obstacle course activities on her sidewalk in front of the “Little Free Library” to encourage people passing by to practice balancing, hopping, or jumping.

Sylvia has also helped the Utah Department of Health and Human Services by sharing her experiences as a childcare professional. She participated in a recorded interview where she shared a few of her success stories related to the TOP Star program; the state shared this interview with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also known as the CDC) so they could see some of the wonderful things Utah is doing with the funding they provide, and to help us keep our funding. Recently, Sylvia also wrote a letter of support on behalf of the TOP Star program to help Utah retain its funding for the TOP Star program.   

Sylvia truly cares about the children in her care, their families, and her community.  It is impossible to list all the wonderful things Sylvia does, but I hope this offers a small glimpse into how much she truly cares about others. Sylvia, thank you for everything you do every day to help make the world a better place.

On behalf of the Salt Lake County Health Department TOP Star program, I would like to award you with the TOP Star of the Year award. Thank you and congratulations.
—Hillary Bryan, TOP Star Coordinator

2023
  • Child Care Educator of the Year: Rochelle Ericson, Explore PreschoolRochelle Ericson
    I am writing to recommend an exceptional educator, Rochelle Ericson(Shellie), for the Child Care Educator of the Year award. With a tireless dedication to nurturing growth, fostering connections, and enhancing the early childhood learning experience, Shellie exemplifies the vitality and passion of a truly extraordinary teacher.
    As she prepares for retirement after years of dedicated service, she continues to invest in learning new skills and acquiring knowledge. Her commitment exceeds typical working hours, reflecting a genuine passion for helping children blossom. This selfless dedication and drive to continue advancing her skills, despite earing her retirement, sets her apart as a unique beacon in our learning community. Shellie embraces the diversity of her students, adapting her teaching practice to align with each child's unique needs and personalities. Shellie communicates with clarity to both parents and students. She sets consistent, clear boundaries that nourish children's sense of safety and respect. Shellie has a remarkable talent for positive reinforcement. She helps children grow their self-esteem through validation and encouragement. She uses engaging, child-friendly strategies to cultivate deep, meaningful relationships with her students. Shellie is also a devoted team player. She brainstorms with other members of the team to problem solve. Rochelle Ericson has devoted her whole career to serving children and their families. She is so well-loved in our little community. She deserves to be celebrated! We admire and respect her for all her selfless efforts.

  • Child Care Director of the Year: Astrid Arias, Bright Beginnings Child CareAstrid Arias
    Astrid, renowned for her altruism, weathered the pandemic by maintaining her child care program to aid parents and provide income for her staff. Despite the cessation of stabilization grant assistance, she opted to forgo her salary, ensuring her staff remained unaffected. To compensate for lost income, she took on an evening job at the SLC airport. Balancing her day at the child program, evenings at the airport, and full-time online studies at the University of Utah for a Bachelor's Degree in Family and Human Development, Astrid aspires to provide enhanced support and counseling services. Managing two in-home child care facilities, she anticipates the opening of a child care center in January 2024. Securing the ECCS grant, Astrid secured funding for a portion of the $400,000 needed for the center's remodeling. Over three years, she collaborated with South Jordan to obtain site plan approval. Actively contributing as a member of the Child Care Licensing Committee and various related committees, Astrid is dedicated to continuous learning. Motivating her staff to obtain their Child Development Associate (CDA) credentials, she achieved a 100% success rate. Proud to be her husband, I reflect on her journey from residing in a domestic violence shelter 15 years ago, finding strength and compassion through that experience. Her past drives her commitment to improvement and aiding women in need. Despite managing a family of five, Astrid's ability to balance her roles and responsibilities is truly commendable, making her a standout Director of the year.
    2022
  • Child Care Educator of the Year: Rachael Mananu, Little Minds AcademyRachael Manunu
    Rachael is from Congo Africa. She speaks Swahili, Lingala, Kinyarwanda and is also learning English to be able to improve her job as a teacher. She is taking classes to get her CDA, my parents love her and trust her with their children because of her dedication and passion working with babies. Our infants’ parents always come and tell us how grateful they are and how happy and thrilled they are having her as their teacher for their child. In our center we have refugees’ families and Rachael does anything to help the refugee community by translating for parent’s needs. She always is positive and is willing to learn and grow in the childcare field!
  • Child Care Director of the Year: Joni Record, Boys & Girls Club of South Valley
    Joni RecordJoni Record is committed to the wellbeing, safety, and joy of not only the children who are in her licensed child care, but all children served at the Miller Boys & Girls Club. Joni does whatever she can to ensure that the children are having THE BEST time, no matter the circumstances. She steps in where needed to meet ratios, make activities a success, and support her children/families and coworkers where she can - even in programs outside of her own. She is committed to the professional development and overall wellbeing of her employees. For example, she encourages her employees to take advantage of training opportunities (outside of requirements) and her employees have voiced to me that she is a safe person that they can turn to without fear of judgment. Joni makes sure her kids are taken care of outside of club hours, we are in constant communication about what her families need as far as food goes, as I am the Nutrition Program Director and will aid Joni in getting families the food they need while they are at home. Joni does this discreetly and never wants anyone to ever feel shame about their situation. She truly is one of the most empathetic, compassionate, and non-judgmental people I know. She always puts a smile on everyone’s faces and creates a warm environment. One child, who was in Joni’s childcare and is now in the older program, lost their father unexpectedly to suicide. Joni did everything she could to reach out to the family, make the child feel loved and supported by the club, and did so without making the child feel even more sad about their circumstance. Joni is by definition, absolutely dedicated to her role as the Miller Child Care Program Director.
2021
  • Child Care Educator of the Year: Claudia Montoya, Infinite Academy & Life Skill CenterClaudia Montoya
    Claudia (Miss Yaya) is a beam of light, and brings love and life into her classroom every single day. When she steps into her class, she comes alive, and falls into her purpose. Her classroom is a hotspot, and the place all the students want to be! Miss Yaya, has a niche in creating deep interpersonal relationships with her students and their families. She takes note of each child's unique background, interests, and curiosities. Armed with personalized knowledge, Claudia creates activities and curriculum that makes each child feel included, and gives them the space and encouragement to explore, learn and grow. She has a knack for making each child feel as if class doesn't really start until they arrive. Miss Yaya goes out of her way, and budget (like all teachers) to bring the worlds curiosities to her classroom, just to see her students eyes light up. A modern day Miss Frizzle. She celebrates her students with wild enthusiasm, and encouragement that is unparalleled. She treats each child as her own, and goes above and beyond to ensure that each child truly believes that they are capable of accomplishing anything. Miss Yaya is a radiant example of what an early childhood educator/care provider should be. She extends passion, curious cultivation, and unconditional acceptance each day through exuberant amounts of love. As a Director of 5 years, and an educator of 10 years, I couldn't think of a better candidate for this award.
  • Child Care Director of the Year: Solkenia Otero, Little Minds Academy
    Solkenia OteroSolkenia is more than a director she is the heart of our school. We serve children from low income and refugee families many of which are not able to transport their children to and from school. Sol, as we call her, has made it one of her duties to drive the school van and drive our students to and from our day care every morning and evening. On occasion there are single mothers who need a ride to a bus stop or work and she kindly picks them up and takes them where they need to go. The generosity she shows towards these families is in everything she does. To better care for the children at our school she regularly collects and sorts donations to help keep our students warm and cozy in the winter. She supports the staff at the school, the most common phrase we hear from her is, how can I better support you. She is open to hearing our ideas and suggestions for ways to improve the school and financially supports putting those ideas in to place. Her hard work, generosity and consistency make her a wonderful director and human being!
2020
  • Child Care Educator of the Year: Michelle Kiesewetter, The Christmas Box House
    Michelle KiesewetterMichelle is beyond dedicated to the youth that she serves. During an exceptionally difficult year, Michelle has risen to the challenge and voluntarily worked extra hours to be sure that there is adequate coverage to meet the needs of the youth. Michelle is always looking for ways to improve the services offered at The Christmas Box House, and she is regularly reaching out to supervisors and directors with her suggestions. Michelle is a strong advocate for youth, and especially those who need it most. She always shows up and gives work her all, and then some. She regularly looks for enrichment activities for the youth she serves, often purchasing and gathering supplies on her own time. She has been known to even purchase special food for youth who have sensory sensitivities or cultural backgrounds to which she is mindful, in an effort to increase their comfort level in a difficult situation. Michelle is loyal, dedicated, determined, and sensitive both to her coworkers and to the youth she cares for. Working with youth in the foster care system, as they are temporarily housed at The Christmas Box House, means putting yourself in the forefront of children who may lash out, who are scared, who have complicated backgrounds, and who come from hard places. Michelle shows up for them where they need her to be. Whether that’s with firm boundaries, or with space to be upset, she adapts as is needed. She models de-escalation to other caretakers on a regular basis, an invaluable tool in her line of work. She is there for kids who often do not have that experience with adults, and there is nothing more important than that.
  • Child Care Director of the Year: Debra Wells, Jordan High School Kinderbeets
    Debra WellsDebra does an amazing job with every single child and student that walks through her door. She is constantly finding new and very fun ways to teach each child, all while teaching Jordan High students different skills to do the same with these children and future children that they may want to teach, or even just for their own future children! Never has she been inconsiderate with the children or students, but rather goes above and beyond, allowing every human she comes across to know they are loved in the world and that they can do amazing things! Debra truly changed my life being one of her students. I have never had a better teacher or influencer than her. Even when she is going through rough times it doesn’t show, she just wants to be the best teacher she can be, and she truly is amazing. If your child goes to this center and is taught by Debra, you know that they will truly be taken care of with love and great education.
2019
  • Child Care Educator of the Year: Amy Burns, Amy's Home Daycare
    I would like to nominate Mrs. Amy Burns for Child Care Educator of the Year. For fifteen years, Mrs. Burns has helped me raise my children as well as hundreds of others. As a military spouse she has relocated and established three different child care centers in her home, all of which have been outstanding successes. Amy provides an environment superior to any other daycare facility I have seen which includes structure, education, and love. One of the best parts of Amy Burn’s Child Care Center is how structured the environment is. As parents we generally are forced to make the decision to send our children to commercial daycare centers where they have structure and availability or a home daycare where they receive freedom and a loving environment. Amy provides a service that gives parents the best of both of those worlds. Not only did Amy potty train two of my children by the age of two, she taught them their ABC’s while also enriching their lives with a love of nutritious foods. Daily, as part of their breakfast routine, Amy and the kids brush their teeth. I use this task as an example to illustrate the care and attention Amy gives to each child. When your child is enrolled with Amy Burns, they receive total care above and beyond the normal protocol. The state of Utah is rich with support for raising children because of loving and caring providers like Amy Burns. Thank you for providing me an opportunity to recognize that.

  • Child Care Director of the Year: Jessica Lloyd, Creative Learning Academy of Utah
    I would like to nominate Jessica Lloyd from Creative Learning Academy of Utah for the Director of the Year award. Ever since Jessica has taken over as the childcare provider for the Salt Lake County employer provided childcare, I have seen immense improvements consistently over time. Just in the past year CLA began using a program called Brightwheel which has been a great resource for parents for not only automatic payments but also daily communication for parents. This program has helped with being able to review a child’s daily schedule, see what they are learning in the classroom, and being able to communicate with a child’s teacher for specific needs or concerns as well as important dates to be aware of for special activities. This tool has been wonderful in providing a way for parents to know what is going on with their children even if they are not the parent that is regularly dropping off or picking up every day. Jessica has also worked hard to make sure teachers are trained and have the right tools and skills they need to be effective the classroom with the kids. They are conscientious about menus and what they are feeding the children at the center to make sure they are receiving a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Improvements are constantly being made to help the physical environment work for the children and teachers with proper equipment and toys for children to enjoy being there and to keep things organized. Jessica is a great resource and is very deserving of this award.