Why early education is important

It’s almost 5:00 p.m., later than they usually leave, but Miesha Green and her two children —Nyema and X’zayzhan—are still at the YWCA Early Learning Center, waiting for the downpour to end before heading for the bus stop and home.

Miesha picked up Nyema from kindergarten almost two hours ago, and then came here to get her 19-month-old son. Outside, the rain is pounding the sidewalk. Inside the kids are laughing and playing. The Center is like a second home. Miesha stops by often, sometimes to read to the kids.

Six-year-old Nyema came to the YWCA for pre-kindergarten last year and Miesha’s little boy is in the infant/toddler program. A single mom, Miesha brings X’zayzhan to the center while she studies hospitality management at Tri-C, aiming for a better job than her last one as a bartender. At 24, she’s done everything from cleaning people’s houses to packing boxes.

“I always wanted to go to school and make something of myself,” Miesha said. “But it’s been pretty hard. Nyema was born with glaucoma; she had seven surgeries between two and seven months.”

Now Nyema is flourishing. She’s an honor roll student at the ICan Academy on East 40th Street, a charter school where kindergarten, Miesha says, is more like first grade with rigorous instruction in reading, writing, science, math and the arts. Nyema likes science best. It’s easy to see how proud her mother is.

“The Early Learning Center got her ready for kindergarten,” proud mom Miesha said. “When we moved to the Central neighborhood, they helped my daughter adapt and learn. They worked with her on many things. That’s why she’s so advanced. They prepare kids for school. They really want them to learn, get ahead. They treat the kids like their own.”

Billie Osborne-Fears, executive director of Starting Point, says Cleveland has many quality early childhood programs like the YWCA‘s, and they’re important.

“The early years are critical to a child’s success,” Osborne-Fears said. “Quality early care creates the foundation for children’s schooling and sets the stage for their development, learning and social-emotional growth.”

The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine offers evidence on why – “the human brain develops more rapidly between birth and age five than during any other period.”

The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood initiative is a collaboration including residents, funders, businesses, schools and others together toward the common goal that all children are prepared to go to college.

Starting Point is partnering with the Promise initiative and its lead organization, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, to ensure that all Central neighborhood children participate in early learning programs, that all the neighborhood’s centers and family child care homes are quality-rated and that parents of these children receive the supportive services they need to assure consistent care and a successful future for their children and themselves.

Promise Early Learning Navigator Tatiana Wells is working with families, early learning programs and neighborhood organizations to make this a reality. She also sees Miesha and her children every Tuesday. They’re working with other Central families on creating costumes to wear in June’s Parade the Circle event. Even one-year-old X’zayzhan helps a little.

The rain has stopped. Miesha and her family can head for home. As they leave, Miesha offers one more thought; “As a mother I wish every child had the opportunity to learn equally.”

In Cleveland’s Central Promise Neighborhood, they’re making that happen.

To find out more about quality early learning programs in the Central Neighborhood and how to enroll your child, contact Tatiana Wells, at 216-575-0061 or visit starting-point.org.