Early Learning invests $350K in Roosevelt Park neighborhood


Grand Rapids-based Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative develops preschools in the city’s impoverished neighborhoods, including the Roosevelt Park neighborhood. Photo via fb.com

The Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative has taken another step in its mission to provide care for the children of Grand Rapids’ most-impoverished neighborhoods.

ELNC, an initiative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, recently announced plans to open a preschool in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood, at 641 Vries St. SW. 

 Roosevelt Park preschool 

The 6,200-square-foot space, formerly the Roosevelt Childhood Development Center, which closed in 2009, will be receiving a $350,000 interior renovation, supported by ELNC’s collaborative partners.

The Roosevelt Park preschool will accommodate 64 children during morning classes and another 64 children during afternoon classes, said ELNC CEO Nkechy Ezeh. 

The tuition for the new preschool, scheduled to be opened in September, will be free for any 3- or 4-year-old living the Roosevelt Park neighborhood who meets the qualifying situational and financial criteria requirements. 

Only children from the neighborhood are eligible for enrollment.

The program cannot accommodate children with severe disabilities or special needs, Ezeh said.

Michigan’s funding formula for a state-supported preschool per school year is $3,400 per student attending for half of the day, four days per week, she said, adding that she expects the school to open at capacity.

"Pipeline to prison"


Ezeh said 80 percent of children entering Grand Rapids Public Schools’ kindergarten were assessed as not ready for kindergarten. She said the goal of ELNC is to make sure that the 20 percent increases to 60 percent by fall of 2016.

“We will partner with parents, so everyone embraces it collectively, otherwise we fail collectively,” she said.

“If you’re not investing in the children, the future workforce, you don’t create a pipeline to a good workforce — you create a pipeline to prison," she said. "Early prevention is better than cure.”

Waiting-list schools

The Roosevelt location will mark ELNC’s sixth West Michigan preschool, joining the Baxter Community Center, United Methodist Community House, Living Stones Academy, South End Community Outreach Ministries and the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan.

Ezeh said all those schools already having waiting lists.

More schools are being planned, she said, because the educational quality of neighborhood preschools can help determine the health of a neighborhood.

Single mothers

Parents will closely work with the teachers to implement at home what the children are learning in school, Ezeh said.

“If you look at all those areas . . . this is the highest concentration of poverty in Grand Rapids," she said. "It’s where we have the highest concentration of poverty families headed by single mothers, and mothers who did not graduate from high school."

“If you have quality preschools in the neighborhood, the neighborhood thrives," she said. "It has impact on the parent and family overall. . . . My vision for this program is that the children will feel the love. It’s going to be a quality relationship from the first day the child walks in.”

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