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Universal pre-K for 3-year-olds underway in Mount Vernon City School District

Universal pre-K for 3-year-olds underway in Mount Vernon City School District

A month after the beginning of the Mount Vernon City School District's universal pre-kindergarten program for 3-year-olds (UPK-3), parents are seeing development in their children's communication and reading skills. Scholars began their pre-K journey at WestCOP Bethel Early Childhood Center, Friendship for Tots, and Our Lady of Victory School.   

PreK students in class at OLV

The universal pre-kindergarten for 3-year-olds program began on November 28, 2022. In October, slots were filled through a 60-person lottery at the Board of Education. The 60 slots were funded through a state pre-K 3 grant, and 30 more students were added to the program using the district’s general funds. The district posted a request for proposal and conducted a competitive bidding process to determine locations.  

“Pre-K 3 will give our families support with quality childcare,” said Gayle White Wallace, Director of Prekindergarten, Gifted and Talented, and Special Projects. “It will also ensure the children get a head start on learning, which will provide a solid foundation for their educational career.”  

Eighteen students are attending the Our Lady of Victory location, and parents are already noticing the development of their children.   

“Just to be able to experience going to school at such a young age is huge,” said Joamni Pena, whose daughter attends the Our Lady of Victory School location. “She would have had to wait until next year to go to school, so the fact that she was able to do it so close to our house has been pretty good. She has been having so much fun at school. She likes it. It’s been amazing. Just the fact that I’m able to drop her off early, she’s with kids her age and engaging so much. A month ago, she wasn’t even talking that much, and now she won’t stop.”  

Students in pre-k class at friendship for Tots

Scholars are getting an opportunity to start their education early, and the district is providing them with a chance at early academic and social-emotional learning to enrich their entire educational journey. Children are getting their first experience with school, and the benefits of this early education will help open more doors for them in the future.   

“I think it's awesome because he was already asking about school, so obviously I thought he was ready,” said Charlene Awani, a parent of a 3-year-old at Our Lady of Victory School. “It’s good that he has a place that is constant and consistent for him to do his learning. Even in the short week that he’s been here, I can already tell that it is helping. He loves it. He actually asks to come to school. I’m glad he’s adapting well to it, and I can tell he’s learning something. I feel that if you're getting this education this early, he is going to be well prepared for kindergarten and first grade.”  

Thirty-six children are attending pre-K at Friendship for Tots. Bishop C. Nathan Edwers leads the program at the Friendship Worship Center, which has several classrooms for pre-K classes. All students are personally greeted every morning as their parents drop them off, and then they walk down the colorful painted hallway, drop their belongings off in their cubbies, and head to class.   

Pre-k students in class at WestCOP Bethel

“First of all, the playing field of the trajectory of education has been leveled,” Edwers said. “Children who have challenges can be identified much earlier than when they go into kindergarten, and a course of corrective action can be planned. It provides us an opportunity to jumpstart our children early. The transformation of these children who come in at ground level – to see them transforming into wonderful human beings – that is exciting."   

WestCOP Bethel Early Childhood Center is the final location where 36 more students are attending. These three pre-K locations open new opportunities for parents and students in the Mount Vernon community. The program will run until the end of the regular school year, and students enrolled in the pre-K 3 program will automatically be registered for pre-K 4.  

“UPK-3 was much needed in the community, and, as a partner, we saw the need especially in this sector of Mount Vernon,” said Janette Gonzales, Director of Early Childhood Programs at WestCOP Bethel. “All the parents were so eager and excited to hear about the opening for UPK-3. We are getting a lot of information, and the children thrive and start getting ready by having that much-needed social experience with each other. It also helps them prepare as they go into UPK-4 and then into kindergarten. So, the transition will be much easier. They benefit from our program because we offer comprehensive services – nutrition, health, mental health, and education.”     

PreK class at Friendship for Tots
3 students with new sneakers and Jude

Four deserving students left school with new pairs of sneakers thanks to a donation from Jude Sainjour, cofounder of Buttafly, a clothing shop in Mount Vernon. Mr. Sainjour traveled to Grimes School to personally give the students their new shoes on Friday, September 22, 2023.

Dad and daughter

Fathers gathered around the entrance of their child's school and children beamed with happiness as their dads got a chance to visit their school. Lincoln School, Mount Vernon Leadership Academy, Hamilton School, Cecil H. Parker School and Graham School held Dads Bring Your Child to School Day on Thursday, September 21, 2023.  

Brian Simmons

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Mr. Thomas, Dr. Pope, Ms. Naughton and students.

Two alumni of Mount Vernon High School spoke to a crowd of 11th graders and motivated them to excel in their studies and accomplish great things. Erica Naughton, assistant principal at MVHS, invited Dr. Gloria Pope and Steven “Butch” Thomas to show scholars the success that Mount Vernon graduates and residents can achieve. Mr. Thomas and Dr. Pope visited MVHS on Tuesday, September 19, 2023.

Logo for news post

Recently, some students in the region came across a concerning post on the popular social media platform TikTok. This post contained a generic threat that mentioned "open fire" on schools without specifying any particular school or district. It is important to note that such posts are not isolated incidents and are unfortunately prevalent on various social media platforms worldwide. Their intent is often to create alarm, annoyance, and disrupt the educational process.

Royce Russell

The Mount Vernon City School District welcomes In-House Counsel Royce Russell. Mr. Russell is an attorney specializing in employment (wrongful termination and discrimination), contracts, and civil rights violations. He will work with all aspects of the District, including legal, policies and procedures, and daily operations.