Is there a moment - or story - when you knew you wanted to get involved in early childhood education?
As far as I can remember, I loved children and always knew I wanted to do something with them. In high school I took a child psychology class, where part of the class was working with special needs students in pre-k and kindergarten. I was instantly drawn to the special needs students and noticed the impact of working with students at a young age. I realized that, we as educators, help shape the needs of all students.
What types of services does your center offer children and families?
We provide therapeutic Home Based and Center Based Early Intervention services to children birth to age 3 years old. For our 3-8 year old students we provide small structured classrooms, using a multidisciplinary approach. We work with students ranging from having behavioral concerns, autism, learning disabilities, language delays and developmental delays. We have a day treatment program where we work with students that have significant behavior and emotional problems, providing them mental health services. We provide evaluations for both early intervention and preschool students. We also have Early Head Start and Head Start programs in Harlem, Bronx and Brooklyn - where we work with families and children.
Can you recall an event or campaign where your organization - in your mind - earned its greatest achievement?
Northside's most far-reaching achievement was obtained by our founding fathers. Pioneering psychologists Dr. Kenneth B. and Mamie Clark founded Northside Center in 1946, offering Harlem youth much-needed social work, psychological evaluation, and remediation. Their work - which showed how racial inequality negatively affected the self-esteem of young children - helped change the course of American history. The Clarks' groundbreaking research, including the black-white doll study, was critical to the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education Supreme Court decision, which legally ended the segregation of public schools. Their findings were the first-ever social science research to be submitted as hard evidence in the Court's history, and due to their vision, many of our programs changed the standard of care for social service agencies throughout NYC.
What is the ultimate goal of your center?
Our ultimate goal is to ensure our students reach their highest potential by exposing students to the Common Core Goals, Head Start standards, Creative Curriculum goals, and objectives as well as work on their IEP's (Individualized Education Plan). We aim to help children and families overcome adversity, build their self-esteem and make great strides in their educational achievements and emotional growth.
What is the most rewarding aspect of running an early childhood education center?
For me the most rewarding aspect of running an early education center is watching the students experience new and exciting things that they would not have typically been exposed to. Watching the students improve in their development - for the students who had few words and difficulty communicating - to be able to communicate with words and express their feelings. It's watching students, who were unable to focus and complete tasks, learn to complete tasks and focus on activities.
What are some of the bigger challenge to starting and running an early education center?
I believe the biggest challenge is hiring qualified staff. Due to current limited funding it is difficult to hold on to our qualified staff and to provide quality teachers with competitive salaries. Often we find ourselves competing with the public school districts because they have higher salary ranges and a diverse range of benefits.
If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the industry you work in, what would it be?
I would like to see more funding for qualified professional staff.
Learn more about how you can support Northside Center for Development here.
35 East 110th St. (between Madison and Fifth Avenues)
New York, NY 10029
1301 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029