March 17, 2014
From Jill: One of the biggest things I learned at the United 2014 Conference in Santa Barbara was to use my gifts to serve others. So when Jesse, one of my clients, reached out to me about helping raise money for her early childhood education center – I knew this was an opportunity to really take what I learned at United and put it into action. Jesse asked me to reach out to my blog followers to spread the word about her cause to hopefully inspire donations and open the first ever crowd-funded preschool. So, I invited Jesse to write a guest blog post telling everyone a little more about her preschool, and I’m also going to be raffling off a FREE Lifestyle/Portrait session ($400 value) to one of the contributors. To make your donation and enter to win the free JT Photo session, click here. To enter the raffle, be sure to leave a comment on the blog letting me know you contributed. Winner will be announced on 3/24/14 so make your donation today! Jesse and Kelly (co-founders of VOCEL) – you are inspiring, selfless, incredible women. Your work is life-changing and I’m honored to have you on my blog…
From Jesse: In 2008, I began teaching preschool at Casa Central, a Head Start program in Humboldt Park. A bubbly, bright 3-year-old little diva, Alexandra quickly became one of the leaders in my classroom. She was a good friend and always had on some sort of sparkle – the other kids loved her. Alexandra’s mom and I became close and a few years later when I got married, Alexandra was the flower girl in my wedding, channeling her inner-diva again as she rocked it out on the dance floor.
Photo credit (below): JordanQuinn Photo
Now Alexandra is in second grade and every so often, I pick her up from school and we have girl time – we shop, go to dinner, try on new shades of lip gloss. Last time, Alexandra was “craving” some pizza, so we headed to Salerno’s Pizza on Grand. Alexandra was amazed by all the flavors of gelato in the case by the register and when I dropped her off back at home that night, she couldn’t stop talking about the “gelato buffet.” Alexandra’s vocabulary is impressive. She started full-day preschool when she was two years old and her mother is committed to reading with her every day and talking to her constantly. Alexandra is an example of the power of early language experiences.
Not every child is as lucky as Alexandra though – in fact, young children in low-income families hear, on average, 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers by the age of four. Thirty million fewer words. It’s not far-fetched to say children who enter kindergarten this far behind may never catch up.
The good news is that quality early childhood education works because children’s brains are actually 90% developed by the age of 5 years old. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough quality preschools in Chicago for all the children who need a spot. My co-founder Kelly and I believe that needs to change.
VOCEL (pronounced /vo/·sĕl) stands for Viewing Our Children as Emerging Leaders. In its pilot years, VOCEL will provide full-day, year-round care and education for children ages 3-5 and by year 3, VOCEL will begin enrolling infants and toddlers too. Committed to building leaders through language, VOCEL will train teachers as intentional language builders, conversing constantly and strategically with children so they develop a sophisticated vocabulary and the skills to interact, listen and present their ideas to others.
At VOCEL, teachers, administrators and parents will be connected by their shared belief in the power of language. Think back to Alexandra and her strong vocabulary – in elementary school, she’ll express how she’s feeling and solve conflicts through productive dialogue. Ten years from now, she’ll write college application essays with sophisticated language, demonstrating she’s prepared to succeed. And when Alexandra is interviewing for her dream job, she’ll be able to articulate her strengths and passions with conviction.
We need more children in our city for which these things are the norm and not the exception.
VOCEL will open its doors this September on the far west side of Chicago. Once operational, VOCEL will receive government funding but this doesn’t help get new preschools off the ground. Enter VOCEL’s innovative campaign to become the first ever crowdfunded preschool. We’re seeking to raise $75k in 75 days so that VOCEL can welcome its first class of children this fall. We have a confirmed space, books, furniture, and most importantly a vision. Now we need advocates for these kids, champions you could say, to take a stance and invest in their futures. Together, we’ll ensure that all of VOCEL’s children have the early start they need because all children deserve to have the same opportunities that lie ahead for Alexandra. Please join us and invest in these children; click here to contribute. Every contribution helps.