Children born into low-income families begin life at a significant disadvantage as compared to children from higher-income families. Last month, we hosted an up-close tour of two early learning centers located in Liberty City that are part of United Way’s Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program, to demonstrate how we are working to level the playing field for all children because one’s zip code shouldn’t predetermine one’s future.
Currently, through two federal grants, United Way of Miami-Dade invests more than $10 million a year in 19 centers providing quality early learning experiences and interventions to 520 infants and toddlers living in some of Miami’s poorest neighborhoods. Nearly 30 percent of infants in Miami-Dade are living in poverty.
More than 25 individuals joined the half-day tour focused on our work in early education. The morning kicked off with remarks from City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez who spoke about the importance of the United Way Early Head Start program and how its fuels the personal and developmental growth of both our children and the community at-large. Nearly 60 percent of the Early Head Start centers that are part of this United Way program are located within the City of Miami.
Then participants boarded a bus headed first to Lillie C. Evans, a K-8 Miami-Dade County Public School with three Early Head Start classrooms and then to New World Academy III, a center focused solely on providing care to infants and toddlers. As part of the experience, participants learned more about the challenging economic conditions of the 33147 zip code where both centers are located as well as the comprehensive, high quality services provided at each site. In addition to interacting with the young children, at Lillie C. Evans a mother shared her appreciation for the care and services her daughter receives and the peace of mind it gives her while at work, and at New World Academy III the center’s owners explained how the United Way partnership has elevated the quality of their programming and facility.
The tour concluded back at United Way with a panel discussion moderated by Joe Hovancak of The Beacon Council and featuring Camila Coté of EY, Vance Aloupis of The Children’s Movement of Florida, Dr. Veronica Fernandez of University of Miami and Jorge Vazquez, a parent. For 45 minutes, they explored the economic benefits, science and the public policy priorities of early education. The discussion concluded with Vazquez sharing the life-changing impact United Way has had on his two foster children.