Little Aaliyah Hatten prepares a colorful plate of pancakes, spaghetti and grapes. The plastic entree is a lesson in dramatic play for the 4-year-old who is among the first pre-kindergarten students to enroll in EPISD’s YWCA classrooms.
EPISD entered into a partnership with five YWCA centers within District boundaries this year to offer more pre-kindergarten opportunities for children like Aaliyah who cannot attend traditional half-day classes.
These students will receive three hours of prekindergarten instruction with an EPISD teacher without ever having to leave their YWCA daycare setting.
“Parents feel more comfortable, more at ease because they know their children are here and don’t have to worry about having to leave work to pick them up,” YWCA instructor Elizabeth Montelongo said.
Some students who are enrolled in the program have been at the daycare center since they were infants. The setting is an already familiar environment for students like Diego Flores, who enjoys playing cars with his friends and coloring the different letters of the alphabet.
The partnership makes it possible for Diego’s younger brothers, triplets enrolled in the 3-year-old program, to take advantage of the active learning environment.
“It benefits the children, and it benefits the parents too,” Montelongo said. ”
Montelongo works in tandem with EPISD teacher Nora Hernandez to plan the students’ lessons and incorporate dual language.
“We work and plan together. The day is divided into half day in English and half day in Spanish,” Hernandez said. “The program is really great. We are bringing pre-k instruction into the daycare.”
Besides the three hours of pre-k instruction, students also participate in other fun activities throughout the day. The class is divided into a number of different learning centers, from math and science to language and writing.
The dramatic play center, which features a play kitchen and costumes, is just one of the many centers geared to engage children with interactive and educational activities.
Student Kaylan Adkison spends her time at the ABC center, matching upper and lower case letters and finding objects that begin with each of those letters. She already recognizes many letters, digging in the bin seeking matching objects with confidence.
“This is the letter B,” Kaylan said. “Balloons start with B. Now I have to find the basketball and the banana.”
To enroll in the program, families must meet federal qualifications. Non-qualifying students may enroll if there are slots available.
“We want the community to know about this program,” Hernandez said. “It’s a great program because it provides the perfect opportunity for these children to receive dual-language instruction in an all-day center.”