Picture a preschooler. Big grin, backpack twice their size, eyes wide open to the exciting world. When you're three and four years old, the future is limitless.
The wide-eyed preschoolers from the first graduating class of The Learning Collaborative are now in their mid-30s. Many of them have preschoolers of their own. That's how long TLC has been offering a high-quality early childhood education to underserved families in Charlotte.
A lot has changed in thirty years, but the need for early education intervention in Charlotte is as urgent as ever. In a city focused on equalizing opportunity, TLC's work is essential.
"The preschool and family support programs of TLC directly tie to the economic mobility recommendations of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force by preparing children for success in school, and empowering and educating parents to be their child’s advocate as they navigate their educational journey," says Development Director Pam Gray.
Here are five ways The Learning Collaborative serves the whole child, the whole family, and, in the long run, the whole of Charlotte:
1. More than Daycare
TLC prepares its scholars for success with a robust curriculum that includes enriching field trips and a heavy emphasis on early literacy. The team creates an individualized plan for each scholar based on his or her needs, and tracks progress throughout the school year. "We want people to understand the importance of investing in early childhood education, as research has proven that it has long term, systemic benefits, across generations, for children born into a disadvantaged home," says Pam Gray.
2. Families Learn Together
TLC knows that engaged parents raise successful students. TLC parents spend at least seven hours a month volunteering in school and attend weekly parenting meetings designed to help them be their child's advocate. Topics include nutrition, organization skills, positive discipline, budgeting and literacy learning at home. The TLC staff uses the parent teacher conference as a coaching session where parents can bring their questions and build a solid home-school partnership.
3. A Strong Village
Check out TLC's community partner list. Long list, right? From Charlotte Country Day School to Whole Foods, these groups pitch in and make a difference. Do you see a place for your group on this list? Contact Development Director Pam Gray at 704.377.8076 or email@example.com today.
4. Consistency is Key
TLC began in 1986 as a mission of Myers Park Presbyterian Church. Most of the founders are still connected to TLC today. That consistency of vision is key to TLC's 30-year service record. At-risk children and families need consistency to thrive. TLC meets them where they are and shows up, day after day, to get them where they need to be.
5. The Big Picture
The team at TLC knows that preschool doesn't exist in a vacuum. That's why TLC removes barriers to success by offering transportation, employing a Family Involvement Specialist, making home visits, and checking in with TLC graduates to ensure success in kindergarten. TLC scholars get a healthy breakfast, a hearty lunch and an afternoon snack every day.
How You Can Help
TLC relies on the generosity of its "village" to support its scholars and families. During #GivingTuesdayCLT, the nonprofit spread the word through its print newsletter and year-end appeal. Be on the look out for an even bigger #GivingTuesdayCLT campaign this year! But don't wait until November. You can help today by becoming a community partner (contact Pam Gray at 704.377.8076 or firstname.lastname@example.org), making a financial donation, or donating supplies from TLC's wish list.
Grace Kennedy is a Huntersville-based writer specializing in storytelling for nonprofits. Learn more at gracekennedy.net.