GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOOD) — The link between early childhood education and a better life is undeniable. Studies have shown that children who don’t receive the early care are 40% less likely to go to college and sadly 70% more likely to be involved in a violent crime.
This WOOD TV8 Connecting with Community Finalist lifts up our community by providing a quality preschool education to children that otherwise might not have the opportunity.
The Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative is a program that creates free preschool programs housed at community organizations in the area, including:
- Baxter Community Center
- Southend Community Outreach Ministries
- New Hope Baptist Church
- Steepletown Neighborhood Services
- Hispanic Center of West Michigan
- The Other Way Ministries
- United Methodist Community House
They have multiple centers to decrease the transportation burden on parents. It’s important to have easy access for families in these targeted neighborhoods.
Dr. Nkechy Ezeh, the president of ELNC and a professor at Aquinas College, says her collaborative was formed because various people and groups in the community saw the need, and found a way to help.
“Two out of ten children living in this neighborhood do not have access to quality preschool. That was really the reason behind our coming together”, she said.
Also, 83% of children in the neighborhood were not ready for kindergarten. And as Dr. Ezeh says, “if you are not ready for kindergarten, you are not ready for life”.
The care has received great reviews from parents of children who attend the programs. Rica and Edwin Rozamo noticed immediate changes in their son Aiden.
“He used to be really shy, but now he comes to school and talks to everybody”, says Rica. Edwin added, “He loves his classmates, the friends that he has here, the relationships with his teacher, it’s just tremendous. He comes home and looks forward to talking to us about it”.
It’s not just the quality education and explorative learning that are important. ELNC also provides children with a cross-cultural, diverse environment. Dr. Ezeh explains the message as “you are important, and your culture is important.”
The parents have appreciated the diversity as well. “There’s a big difference when you have so much diversity, it expands a child’s mind. I didn’t have that when I was growing up”.
Another parent, Jaqueline Sanchez, agreed, saying “it gave [my daughter] a different outlook on things. She was able to see different cultures come together and that was really important to me”.
The collaborative also provides several services to help parents, including:
- Parent and caregiver education and leadership training.
- Recruitment, training and retention for teachers.
- Technical assistance for the collaborative partners.