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CMS Pre-K: A cornerstone for academic success

Jessica McMullen has two sons who both were enrolled in pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) programs. Her youngest, 5, just graduated from the Pre-K program at The Learning Collaborative, a child development center in Charlotte's Grier Heights neighborhood, which he has attended since he was 2.

"We have family members who went there, and then it relocated to my neighborhood," McMullen said. "My youngest is technically an only child, so this was going to help him with speech and engaging with other children. With the smaller setting, he started talking more, learning a lot more things, and he learned how to share."

The Learning Collaborative is a program site for NC Pre-K, which is offered, along with the Bright Beginnings program, through Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Seats are still available in both programs, and families must go through an application process to enroll. All Mecklenburg County families that have a child who will be 4 years old by Aug. 31 are encouraged to apply now to find the best fit for their child.

"The benefits of the Pre-K experience are a cornerstone for successful experience in later school-age grades," said Dr. Chris Law, CMS Pre-K Program director. "In Pre-K, children learn the language of academic and social success. They learn how to listen to each other and inquire about the world in a natural environment that is designed for them at their developmental level. These positive experiences provide a stable entry point into school."

Bright Beginnings serves 3,240 eligible 4-year-old students in 57 CMS elementary schools. A screening process determines eligibility, and children who demonstrate the greatest need are placed first. NC Pre-K serves at-risk 4-year-olds to provide access to high-quality early learning across the state. The program serves an additional 1,472 children in 30 community-based child care centers.

McMullen said teachers at The Learning Collaborative really worked with her son, who has chronic asthma, and had an action plan for him the entire time he was there.

"He had a lot of growth there and liked the hands-on learning," she said. "He will be going to a CMS school for kindergarten, and we would like to start him in a magnet program. He grasped so much, and we want him to be challenged more."

Dr. Law said Pre-K nurtures students and, at the same time, provides parents access to the school or child development setting and positive supports for parenting.

"We believe these skills establish the framework for students to succeed in academic skills areas of the arts, literacy, math and science," he said, "but most importantly, how to succeed in creating positive social and emotional experiences with the individuals around them."

McMullen said she was surprised by her son's progress and encourages her friends to enroll their children in Pre-K.

"Do not wait because children need to know how to operate in a school setting," she said. "The main thing for parents is to have patience, keep an open mind and understand that's the most vulnerable part of a child's learning. Just keep pushing and keep them in the program."

 

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