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#SpotlightOnCLT: La Escuelita Bilingual Preschool

“Volunteers are truly essential, especially for these children who benefit from a high level of attention, Pat Shaw, Director of La Escuelita Bilingual Preschool in Davidson, explained. “They (volunteers) speak English with the children - different accents, different backgrounds and different vocabularies. Plus, they share invaluable talents. These interactions are cultural experiences for everyone,” said Shaw. 

Founded in 2014 and initially supported by St. Albans Episcopal Church, La Escuelita Bilingual Preschool has grown in every way. Shaw loves the relationships that form as families come through this pre-kindergarten, play-based learning program. Hosted in a Davidson Community Center, the children enjoy large classrooms with a wall full of windows, tons of sunlight and multiple play centers, indoors and out. Many attend the five-morning program nearly tuition-free thanks to local community members’ sponsorships. 

“These mommies love, love, love their children…and they do everything for them! Consequently, some of these preschoolers have never put on their own coat or opened their own lunchbox. We really encourage independence, literacy, and learning through play. These children clearly have many different life experiences, but some home environments do not adequately prepare them for the expectations of today’s kindergarten,” Shaw said. 

Shaw puts out the call for volunteers to share their gifts at La Escuelita both with the children and in their monthly family workshops. As expected, the school is selective about their volunteers both for “fit” and for the ability to “own the position” without needing assistance or oversight. 

Mr. Bob answered the call two years ago and comes once a month to do a woodworking project with the children. They get to take home their creations, they are learning the names of the tools, gaining fine motor skills, and are so proud. One student told his dad at pickup, “Papi, I have something to tell you that you are not going to like.” Papi frowns and braces himself. “Today I used a hammer and a nail!” Papi’s face changes to reveal a broad smile.

Ms. Ariana, a student volunteer who started in 2017, comes 2-3 times a week. She actually changed her career trajectory because of her time spent volunteering at La Escuelita. Ariana was just accepted into a graduate program in Child Psychology at Columbia University to further explore the wonder of the nascent child mind. 

Ms. Darlene, a flight attendant, volunteers once a week. She will run a center - the kitchen center or the block center or the car center. She hangs out with the kids and talks with them or reads with them, one-on-one. “Darlene became part of the Escuelita family. Her proficiency of the Spanish language is a bonus; she is a discerning team player who is self-reliant, disciplined, and industrious. We love volunteers with IT knowledge, fundraising experience, and special talents. 

La Escuelita Bilingual Preschool is proud to have supported the children and their families through the pandemic year. The school needs assistance with tuition sponsorship and with supplies for the new school year which can be purchased HERE.

Contact Pat Shaw to invest in ideas like this one: “One of my dreams is to have organized labeled containers for storing dramatic play props.” Their newest is a restaurant center: “Will I be the chef, the customer, the waitress?” These guided-play centers with open-ended questions encourage new vocabulary, negotiation skills, patience, and hands-on FUN. SHARE Charlotte urges you to make Ms. Pat’s dream a reality.

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