HMESF’s primary focus is providing educational resources to early childhood education centers throughout NYC to help young children achieve their potential and start their education off on the right foot. We love our education center partners, and we want to show our appreciation for everything they do with a blog feature series. We interviewed some of our education center partners to learn more about their individual missions in the field of early care and education.
We’re kicking off our ECE center blog series with Kennedy Child Study Center, an East Harlem-based education center with a goal to assist children who experience significant delays in learning and other areas of early childhood development. Kennedy Child Study Center provides high-quality early childhood education to save over 500 children annually through its locations in the Bronx and East Harlem.
We asked Executive Director, Jeanne Alter…
Is there a moment – or story – when you knew you wanted to get involved in early childhood education?
I’ve always been drawn to children with special needs. I had a bunch of stuffed animals when I was a kid, and I’d sit them in rows and pretend to be their teacher. There was one bear named Moscow who had a broken eye and ripped ear, and I’d always make sure that the other animals were especially nice to him. So I knew early on that I wanted to be a special education teacher.
I feel truly fortunate to have the opportunity to work at Kennedy Child Study Center and advocates for children with developmental delays and their families every day. Providing the East Harlem community with a school environment that speaks to the respect and importance of early childhood special education is truly a personal dream.
What types of services does your center offer children and families?
Kennedy Child Study Center’s (KCSC’s) mission is to assist children who experience significant delays in learning and other areas of early childhood development. We accomplish this mission by providing evaluation and diagnosis, comprehensive therapy, and high-quality preschool education to young children with delays in learning and other areas of development. Recognizing the critical role of families in the education of young children, we seek to advance the holistic well-being of the families we serve through family support, including Medicaid Service Coordination and information on healthy living and accessing community resources.
KCSC advocated for public policies that benefit young children with developmental delays, and seeks to develop programs to meet the changing needs of our families. We reinforce best practices in early childhood special education through ongoing professional development for educators, therapists, and others working in the field.
Can you recall an event or campaign where your organization – in your mind – earned its greatest achievement?
KCSC’s great achievement has been our August 2015 relocation to our new school in the heart of East Harlem. Our new neighborhood faces consistently high rates of poverty, obesity, and low education attainment – and is home to many KCSC families. The move itself reflects a philosophical and practical shift in special education hat KCSC has helped to advance on a local and state level. The shift in approach stresses the need to extend education and wellbeing beyond the walls of the classroom, with a holistic focus on engaging families in the education of their young child and providing the support and knowledge necessary to create a nurturing home environment.
What is the ultimate goal of your center?
KSCS’s ultimate goal is to provide a world-class special education informed by the latest advances in early childhood research, while establishing and sharing best practices in holistic early childhood special education both in NYC and nationally.
What is the most rewarding aspect of running an early childhood education center?
The most rewarding aspect of running an early childhood education center is observing the progress that our students make towards gaining new educational, social, language and other skills. Hearing family members express joy at the progress of their children or grandchildren makes all of the time and energy worthwhile.
For example, Isabel, the grandmother of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder who has been attending KSCS for two years, said this about her grandchild’s experience with KSCS:
“I am very impressed with the progress that Jeter has made at Kennedy Child Study Center, and by the warm nurturing environment that he is in. With the support of the teachers, therapists, and other staff at Kennedy Child Study Center, Jeter has made significant improvements in his attention span, listening and communication.”
What are some of the bigger challenges to starting and running an early education center?
Our biggest ongoing challenge is funding. While KCSC receives funding from the New York State Education Department, The New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, and Medicaid, there is a growing gap between our government reimbursement and the cost of providing high-quality early childhood special education – with our government funding levels not meeting the ongoing costs of operating three schools in New York City.
If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the industry you work in, what would it be?
I would like to make it easier to connect parents – and in particular, low-income parents of color, many of whom have struggled with developmental delays themselves – with the resources needed to advocate their children’s educational, physical, emotional and social health. With this goal in mind, we are constantly seeking new and more effective ways to engage the families we work with and encourage them to take an active role in their child’s education. Out recent move to East Harlem was our most significant step in seeking to bring families closer to the resources and support they need to provide a rich home environment for their developing children.
Learn more about how you can support Kennedy Child Study center here.
Kennedy Child Study Center
2212 Third Avenue, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10035