EDUCATION, we believe, is key to breaking the cycle of poverty. For over eight years, Bridge of Grace has offered after-school programs and academic support to students grades 1-12. Through our partnership with Levan Scott Academy, our neighborhood public elementary school, we realized that there is a prevalent opportunity gap for children in the Mount Vernon Park neighborhood. Too many children are starting kindergarten unprepared and are assessed as ‘behind’ before the first day of school begins.
Research shows strong starts lead to strong successes. As we work to build solid foundations for the families in our neighborhood, we are expanding our focus to include early childhood education. The first five years of a child’s life are the most important for brain development. Through early experiences, specifically during the first three years of life, the brain makes connections that become the basis for learning, self-regulation, problem solving, and communication. Bridge of Grace wants to ensure strong starts for children in Mount Vernon Park and southeast Fort Wayne. We know that requires improved quality of child care and early education opportunities.
To support families, caregivers, child care providers, and our community, we will build a state-of-the-art early learning center that will provide high-quality early care and education. This 21,188 sq ft center will feature 10 innovative classrooms for each age group, a multi-use room inspiring gross motor skills development, a full kitchen and culinary staff, sensory spaces, and playgrounds appropriate for each age group. We will employ highly qualified early learning professionals and offer professional development to our team and other community child care providers to strengthen early care overall.
The center will serve as a safe and nurturing learning environment for families and approximately 150 children six weeks to five years of age, as well as school age children for before- and after-school care. With a holistic approach, we will provide support to the needs of the whole child: physical, mental, intellectual, spiritual, social, and emotional. We will also serve and support the whole family through engaging programming, advocacy, and offering hours of operation to accommodate parents/guardians who work or attend school.
In an effort to make quality early care and education readily available, all Mount Vernon Park residents will have access to free child care at high-quality programs in our neighborhood. While we recognize no-cost child care relies on funding, we believe it is essential to increase accessibility to quality early care and education for more of our neighbors. Experts agree high-quality early care and education strengthens families and has the potential to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
As quality early care and education catapults success beyond a K-12 education, Bridge of Grace wants to offer the opportunity of a postsecondary education to all Mount Vernon Park graduating seniors. Post high school scholarships to four-year universities, community colleges, career and technical programs, or vocational schools will be awarded. We will lean on experts to establish and manage scholarships, and partner students striving for a scholarship with a case manager who will prepare them for success beyond high school.
Families are met with many obstacles including the high costs of college and postsecondary education. However, research recognizes that higher education is an avenue to success. It is estimated that two-thirds of job openings now require postsecondary education or training. Scholarships will ensure Mount Vernon Park graduating seniors are provided with the opportunity to earn credentials that help create a new narrative, defeating the cycle of poverty.
The future state-of-the-art early learning center that will serve as a safe and nurturing learning environment for families and over 200 children.