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#SpotlightOnCLT: Early Care and Education

Early child care and education are crucial to the emotional, social and even physical development of young children and have a direct effect on their overall development as an adult. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, while our brains continue to develop and change well into adulthood, the first eight years build a foundation for future learning, health and life success. 

Just last year, Mecklenburg County rolled out a new program MECK Pre-K which offers free pre-k education and care to eligible four year olds in the Charlotte area in response to a big push for free child care and education across the country and right here in our own city.

Several studies have shown the benefits of enrolling children in pre-k in order to have a strong foundation for kindergarten. They are taught not only basic academics, but also how to get along with one another and problem solve in an effective way. 

This month we are shining our #SpotlightOnCLT on our local nonprofit partners who focus on  early care and education. Our friends at Leading On Opportunity are proud to sponsor August’s conversation  “in order to highlight the work of outstanding community partners who are committed to improving the quality of life for Charlotte residents.” 

Stephanie Cooper-Lewter, Executive Director of Leading on Opportunity, explains “It is our hope that within a generation, every child in Charlotte-Mecklenburg will have an equal chance to achieve social and economic success. To do so, we promote collaboration of diverse community partners by engaging diverse voices that uplift community; amplify stories and data to shift the narrative and celebrate community success;  influence policies and practices to build public will and continue the collective desire to see transformative change.”  

Check out this list of local nonprofits and learn how you can support them! 

Smart Start of Mecklenburg County

Smart Start of Mecklenburg County has the sole mission of ensuring that every child in Charlotte enters kindergarten healthy and ready to learn. Smart Start provides funding for programs in health, early childhood education, and family support for children ages birth to 5.

Child Care Resources Inc.

Child Care Resources Inc. (CCRI) works to ensure that all children from birth through age 12 have access to quality, affordable early learning and school-age experiences that enable them to succeed in school and in life. CCRI offers free and confidential Child Care Search service to all families seeking child care, and provides child care financial aid to income-eligible working families in Mecklenburg County. They also deliver free and low-cost professional development services to help early educators and school-age child care practitioners improve the quality of services provided to children.

Charlotte Bilingual Preschool

Charlotte Bilingual Preschool is a 5-star licensed dual-language preschool that prepares Spanish-speaking students to enter kindergarten ready to learn. They offer students a superior dual-language education using the Creative Curriculum and proven best practices for dual-language learners. In addition, Charlotte Bilingual Preschool  provides parents with coaching, tools, workshops and resources to aid them as educational partners and advocates and ensure their children’s continued success in school.

WINGS for Kids

WINGS for Kids equips at-risk kids with the social and emotional skills to succeed in school, stay in school, and thrive in life. They envision a world where there is equity in academics, opportunity, and emotional well-being for all children regardless of socioeconomic status. WINGS is an education program that teaches kids how to behave well, make good decisions and build healthy relationships. They help elementary age (K-5) kids experience high quality, effective social and emotional learning.

Learning Help Centers of Charlotte

Learning Help Centers of Charlotte (LHCC) provides scholastic, spiritual, and social support to empower at-risk families to lift themselves out of generational poverty. They engage with at-risk families through weekly homework support, mentoring and annual summer enrichment camps for children, mentoring and crisis interventions for parents, and family enrichment events, all of which strive to educate and empower parents and children to become community leaders


COSKids’ goal is to aid families by providing developmental and affordable Christian-based care and instruction, including prevention and intervention as needed to keep at-risk children on par with their peers. They also equip working single parents with special skills and support to help with their unique challenges. Their mission is to address the key determinants of area income inequality: early childhood education, family and child stability.

The Prodigal Son Foundation

The Prodigal Son Foundation (PSF) is committed to strengthening communities and developing productive leaders for the future by empowering, educating and engaging students and families. Their Learning Center program provides students with free out-of-school and summer academic enrichment in an effort to promote leadership and academic excellence. They aim to build confidence, motivation, and self-management skills among students through enrichment opportunities. The Learning Center also offers families of participating students educational development opportunities through a range of high-quality services to support student learning and development. 

Lakewood Preschool Cooperative

Lakewood Preschool Cooperative is a tuition-free preschool that addresses the educational, emotional, physical and social needs of children 0-5 years of age. The program is a unique collaboration among family members, children, staff, neighbors, and volunteers with one ambitious goal - to prepare young children from diverse neighborhoods for success in school and beyond. Recognizing the importance of engaged families, Lakewood Preschool offers family members the knowledge, resources and guidance to fully participate in their child’s education and to work toward achieving their own personal goals.

Bethlehem Center

The Bethlehem Center provides educational opportunities for low-income children and families to improve the quality of their lives. They focus on four priorities in their service delivery, early childhood development, school-age development (k-12), BC Scholarship Fund, and community outreach. They aim to transform the lives of over children and their families by providing educational services to break the cycle of poverty. Bethlehems programs foster, encourage and enable  participants to take apart in their own self development and community empowerment.

The Learning Collaborative

The Learning Collaborative is a comprehensive preschool program with hands-on involvement between teachers, students, families, patrons and the community. They provide transportation, hot meals, speech language and literacy development, and intensive family support to families in need and  have a long and successful history of developing children who are ready and excited to learn upon entering kindergarten. The Learning Collaborative also coaches parents to participate in their child’s education as both teacher and advocate.

KIPP Charlotte 

KIPP Charlotte is a free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter school serving nearly 800 students in grades K-8 and 600 high school and college alumni. KIPP Charlotte serves communities that are traditionally underserved and marginalized in education. The mission of KIPP Charlotte is to prepare all students to excel in the nation’s finest high schools and colleges by cultivating the habits of mind, character skills, and knowledge necessary for success. KIPP provides an education that will enable students to lead full lives and empower graduates to be the future leaders of Charlotte and agents of change in the world beyond.

Faith Hope and Love (Formerly House of Hope)

Faith, Hope, and Love Mentoring serves and assists the students and families in Charlotte. This program changes underachieving students (ages K-8) and brings these students to grade level while developing them socially, emotionally and spiritually.They utilize a one-on-one adult mentoring model and help the parents of their students get involved in their child's life. 

Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center

Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (ECAC) is dedicated to empowering families and improving lives, particularly for North Carolina families raising children ages 0 to 26 with disabilities. As a non-profit organization operated by and staffed primarily with parents of children with disabilities, they understand the needs of families as they navigate the special education process. ECAC exists to assist all children in accessing a free and appropriate education.

 The YMCA of Greater Charlotte

From early learning to college prep, water safety to healthy living, the YMCA of Greater Charlotte creates opportunities for everyone in the community to thrive, regardless of income, background, race or zip code. The YMCA’s primary focuses are youth development, healthy living, and social Responsibility.

Arts + (formerly Community School of the Arts)

Arts+’s goal is to make outstanding arts education available to students of all ages, skill levels and socioeconomic backgrounds. From private lessons to summer camps to community outreach programs, they strive to help each student unlock their full potential through the power of arts education. Arts+ reaches 4,500 students annually through high-quality music and visual arts programming, including private lessons, group classes, summer camps, workshops, and the Charlotte Children's Choir. Nearly half of those 4,500 students pay reduced or no tuition thanks to their extensive outreach programs, financial aid, and community partnerships.

Caterpillar Ministries

Caterpillar Ministries is a nonprofit, non-denominational Christian organization that was founded in 2007. Through genuine relationship building, they provide educational, spiritual and mentoring programs to the more than 450 children and adults in the Huntersville area. Their programs include fun for preschoolers, small groups for teens, and ESL classes and job training for adults.

Teaching Fellow Institute
The Teaching Fellows Institute has been engaging, honoring, inspiring and retaining outstanding teachers in Charlotte since 2005 and provides them with opportunities that further develop their leadership and professional expertise. Their work to strengthen CLT's network of outstanding teachers directly affects the quality of education students in the Charlotte area are able to receive from Kindergarten through senior year. 

*This list features SHARE Charlotte’s nonprofit partners who primarily focus on early care and education. It is important to note that many of our partners not featured in the list above do also provide child care services and early education programs in addition to their primary missions. To explore all 400+ of our local nonprofit partners click here. 

Share With Us!

We have so much great news to share from our nonprofit partners about their amazing work. But, we'd love to hear from you. Let us know if you have stories you'd like to tell and we'll make you a guest blogger!!