On April 27th, the Chase Room at NJPAC was transformed into a Who’s Who of education leaders, supporters and advocates. La Casa de Don Pedro’s annual La Casa es Su Casa celebration showcased “The Early Childhood Education Journey” and honored the people behind New Jersey’s rise to national leadership in early education. Dr. Lauren Wells, Newark’s Chief Education Officer, hosted the event. To open the program, two of La Casa’s 4-year-old students stepped on stage to read a welcome message and introduce Mayor Ras Baraka in both English and Spanish.
A photo timeline illustrated the key touch-points in La Casa’s 44-year history, demonstrating how the organization’s preschool program has grown and adapted with the community—from its early days as a small, dual-language daycare center to the robust, nationally accredited preschool program that now serves 255 children each year. The event also featured a “pop-up” classroom fully equipped with dual-language educational materials to give guests a hands-on, interactive experience with the program.
The evening’s honorees were Barbara Reisman, a longtime proponent of the expansion of high-quality early childhood education; Nancy E. Rivera, Newark Public School’s first director of Early Childhood Education for the Abbott preschool program; and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, chair of the Senate Education Committee. Two organizations, Advocates for Children of New Jersey and the Education Law Center, also shared the evening’s spotlight.
“We are honored to be recognized for the work we’ve done to ensure that New Jersey’s high-quality, full-day preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds is the best in the nation,” says Education Law Center Executive Director David Sciarra. “For decades, La Casa has been devoted to the Newark community, working to educate, assist and empower residents.”
Remarks by Dr. Wells, Mayor Baraka, Executive Director Ray Ocasio and each of the honorees celebrated the progress made in early childhood education over the past two decades while stressing the need to continue expanding access to such programs.
“All of us need to be called to the table to invest in these young children,” says Carrie Puglisi, Director of Program & Fund Development for La Casa. “The challenges created by budget cuts mean that our kids are missing out on important educational opportunities.”
Quality preschool education is widely regarded as a means of leveling the playing field and closing the achievement gap between low income students and their more affluent counterparts. As budgets dry up and classroom supply closets become empty, advocacy and support for early childhood education is more critical than ever. For more information on La Casa de Don Pedro’s preschool program and how you can lend your support, visit donatenow.networkforgood.org/lacasadedonpedro or lacasanwk.org.