A five-year-old boy who life had dealt a bad hand was trying to survive a failing Special Ed program in a low performing school. The odds were so stacked against him that, as an educator, I couldn’t help but intervene. That was the beginning of my first social enterprise, and that’s when I discovered there were scores of educators out there creating enterprising solutions to global problems at the grass-roots level. (I would later document and publish about them.)
I found one such enterprise right in our Harlem community. It was a small church school, happy to value this child’s potential over his acting-out behavior. Next, I asked everyone I knew to help me save one child. People responded. Ordinary people sent $25, $100, $500 and more. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to galvanize the community around solving a problem.
Soon “I” became “we” and the Toussaint Institute Fund was born—serving thousands of families each year through seminars, scholarships, counseling, and publications. Our signature products are the annual Education Expo, attended by thousands, and our Directory of Historically Black Independent Schools, listing 70 such academies.
After winning several civic awards and receiving various honors, including an invitation to the White House, I was feeling fulfilled and complete at the ripe old age of 40. Ready to be a mom, and not knowing how to do anything without diving in all the way, I soon left my career and reorganized my life to focus on parenting.
And now I’m back—building from the ground up again. Honestly, at first it was daunting. But I knew it was all about zeroing in on a social problem with a do-able solution. That’s when I founded Morningside PlayCare.
Morningside PlayCare, Inc. will be a private early childhood program that teaches young English speaking children to be fluent in Mandarin while providing full-day child care and pre-school services. Our program is based on the latest findings in neuroscience on language and the young brain; and lays the foundation for literacy in both languages. Our curriculum is play-based. Children are able to continue developing dual language literacy in our program as we evolve into a kindergarten and grade school by adding a new class each year as the children age. We will invite other moms to serve as interns and learn from us how to establish similar programs using our model. Our goals: to create multi-lingual kids, ready to take on a third language while still in elementary school; and to be a replicable model.
TWO MAIN AREAS OF SERVICE
(1) Educating Young Children: We teach Mandarin language skills, pre-school and kindergarten skills, cross-cultural understanding, social and environmental responsibility – all in a healthy, caring environment.
(2) Creating Equality of Opportunity: We enroll low, middle, and upper income students from ethnically diverse backgrounds; and we model entrepreneurship for a diverse adult population.
THE NEURO-SCIENCE BEHIND OUR WORK: The brain has been called by some, the new frontier due to rapid advances in knowledge about how it works. Neuro-scientists are amazed at how ripe the young brain is for learning multiple languages. Trends in foreign language learning have linguists promoting immersion as a superior teaching method. (Language Immersion – very different from bilingual education as it’s practiced in the US – is an approach to learning a second language in which teachers speak only the target language to the students for 50 to 100 percent of the time. In a pre-school, this means adults lead children in play, song, and story telling – all in the target language.)
GLOBAL TRENDS: Now that globalization has education policy-makers setting new Global Competency goals and adopting dual language and cross cultural understanding as the new bar, high schools and colleges will soon expect competitive applicants to have second language fluency. State department officials see future career opportunities for Americans fluent in Mandarin and are anxious for educators to produce able graduates.
PERFECT TIMING: The convergence of these scientific and geo-political trends, as well as the rising numbers of two-parent working families, suggests we are in the right place at the right time, with the right mission.
OUR CHALLENGE: Convincing parents to enroll their children in an educational approach that is not yet popular. Our solution? First we’ll target the niche market of believers and offer the highest quality demonstration program. We will also use playground meet-ups, blogs, lectures, and publications to educate parents on the neuroscience and linguistics of early childhood language immersion. And of course we will document our successes, publicizing our results through articles and videos.
MORNINGSIDE PLAYCARE IS PROUD to be leading the way in creating an American citizenry prepared to contribute key communications skills to a changing world. We are proud to be at the forefront of modeling how an economically diverse spectrum of Americans can be prepared with a skill that will soon be very highly valued in the employment market. Morningside PlayCare is offering opportunity at the developmental age when science and practice assure us, this skill can be easily mastered without regard to socio-economic background. Finally, something in the field of education that produces profound, tangible results across populations! And we are taking action on it.
About twenty percent of the loan will be used for a postcard campaign directed at our target market supported by person-to person playground canvassing. Once the space is furnished, we can host Open Houses. Every family with young children in our target income and geographic range will receive invitations. Parents can view the space where their children will be; we can demonstrate how the program works; and families can choose to apply. To launch, we need only 6 to 12 of these families to enroll their children. In short, this loan will be used to facilitate our launch. Tuition income will then be used to cover salaries and other overhead – including repayment of the loan.
Why support a mom in a bold educational venture? Because moms are the foundation of a healthy future. And enterprising moms can support their families and model enterprise for other moms. (Which I intend to do.) Morningside PlayCare is also an opportunity for me to take action on something our society needs, while realizing my own potential. It let’s me model for my daughter how we can conceive, believe, and change the future – just by acting now. In bottom line terms: This business will generate the income for me to support my daughter through high school and college, and to retire with confidence when I’m ready – AFTER – having again made a difference in the world. I look forward to being an inspiration to moms returning to career after raising children, and to all those over 50 who still have big dreams.