As the school year wraps up, I find myself reflecting on my learning journey, which began at age four. I recall being so eager to learn that my young parents had me tested for early admission into kindergarten at John Dibert in Mid-City. Later in life, it dawned on me why I had been so hungry for knowledge. I remember going to my first baby shower, where we were invited to bring our favorite children’s book. In that moment, I realized that I had no books as a child, unless you count the mustard colored children’s Bible given to me by my godfather when I was baptized. There was a deep yearning from within that could not be quenched by nursery school, or at home. My developing mind needed more – all developing minds need more.
Much more is now known about human brain development and the enormous window of opportunity that exists from birth to age five. Today is my daughter, Hayden’s, last day of pre-kindergarten. I am amazed by all that she has been exposed to over the past year – amphibians, camouflage, French, Joan Miro’s Constellation Series, and their Jim Hensen musical performance, to name a few. At age one and a half, Hayden was lucky enough to attend a quality early learning program, where her interactions created learning pathways that will last a lifetime. Each day, she takes great pride in sharing what she’s learned with me. Her confidence will continue to grow as she enters kindergarten, ready to learn.
Sadly, fewer than 15% of our children ages 0 to 3 years old are being invested in. The current waitlist for the state’s childcare assistance program, which many low-income families depend on, is about 5,000 names long. As a state, we must do more to ensure all children have access to early childhood education programs, which often allow parents to return to work. In addition to increasing family income, more parents reentering the workforce benefits the business community, as well as the state, by enhancing tax revenues. For every dollar invested in early education, society receives $9.00 in return. That return on investment is hard to beat!
This week, I attended Early Education Day at the State Capitol with Governor John Bel Edwards and one of my mentors and early education advocates, Bill Hammack. I was encouraged by the Governor’s amendment to HB105, ensuring we maintain the current number of seats offered for children birth to 3. Additionally, Kingsley House presented an award to Mayor Latoya Cantrell for doubling the city’s investment in early childhood education to $1.5 million dollars, which extended services to over 100 young children, who were desperately in need.
My commitment to providing quality early learning programs to children in New Orleans goes beyond my fundraising and advocacy for Kingsley House and Educare. Once elected as State Representative, I look forward to continuing my efforts at the State Capitol, where I promise to be a champion for the children of District 98, the City of New Orleans, and the State of Louisiana.
Thank you to everyone who attended our Young Professionals Event this week!