In the fall of 2001 when we first met in a breast-feeding support group we were simply trying to survive the shock of being new moms to our newborns, Jack and Dora. Our friendship grew from the bond of dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and figuring out how to nurse in public places. We had no idea that a year later a great partnership would be formed. Yet when applying to preschools we noted an absence of a Spanish/English dual language preschool option and thus our second “baby” was born.
In the fall of 2003, we combined our backgrounds in early childhood education and bilingual speech-language pathology to create a dual language school that respects individual child development and implements a primarily play-based curriculum but also incorporates teacher-directed activities. We both wanted to build a community of families from diverse backgrounds, so we decided that La Escuelita would use a portion of its revenue to offer tuition reduction for families who could otherwise not afford to attend. In thinking about what we wanted for our own children in a preschool, these primary goals formed the three core values of La Escuelita, the core values that stand today and continue to guide La Escuelita in its mission.
Twelve years and four siblings later, Jack and Dora remain close friends, in braces rather than diapers, and our first graduates are in high school. Families continue to reach out and tell us about how their La Escuelita experience shaped their children’s lives. One parent wrote to tell us about how high her daughter scored on her Spanish proficiency exam this year. Another laughed at how his son could, unbeknownst to his opponents, understand all the calls they made in Spanish at his baseball games. Many come back to visit, or reach out to tell us how much they still, to this day, value the experience their children and their families had during those years at La Escuelita.
While parents have continually exuded positive feedback about their experiences at La Escuelita, the one criticism we heard again and again, and a factor that may have impeded some families from partaking in our wonderful school, was our space. Being located in the not-so-well-lit basement of the church was a drawback for parents and staff alike. Yet real estate in Manhattan is challenging, as many of our families know, and although we began looking for a new space almost as soon as we began La Escuelita, we never found anything that met our expectations. Until now! We are so excited to take this next step to perfecting our school, moving our organization to a close-by but new and improved space at St. Michael’s Church on 99th Street. We are energized to design the space of our dreams, with windows and lots of natural light, with open spaces for children to have indoor movement, and with an adjacent outdoor space for students to move and play in our own backyard. It has been a long time in the making and we cannot wait to introduce all of our families, past, present and future, to our new home!
We are so grateful for the education La Escuelita provided to our own children, and to hundreds of other graduates. We are thrilled that you are considering giving your children the gift of bilingualism. La Escuelita is a community like no other, a perfect place for children to learn, play, explore and grow.
Welcome to the La Escuelita family!
Jennifer Friedman and Jennifer Woodruff
co-founders of La Escuelita