VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Spanish and not politics was the lesson of the day at Mile High Kids, a Head Start program that serves 225 children in Virginia Beach.
As a warm-up, the children repeated the sounds created by teacher Vivian Santiago as she reviewed the vowel sounds: “AH-AYE-EE-OO-UUUUUU.”
The next question included a lesson in civics.
“Who is the president of the United States?” she asked.
“Joe Biden,” responded the children.
“And, where does he live?”
“In the White House,” said the preschoolers.
Eighty percent of the children in this Head Start-funded program, which has several locations, have financial needs. Ten percent have special needs.
Santiago says her students will enter kindergarten with exposure to at least two languages.
“Everything we teach, we say it in Spanish and they are getting really good,” said Santiago.
At Mile High Kids, youngsters are taught Spanish, French, Arabic, and the language of music.
Cardell Patillo is the executive director of the Mile High Kids program. He says without pre-K, a child could face failure during their first years of public education.
“So if you are starting kindergarten without that, preschool education you are starting almost two years behind. It’s been displayed through data that many students who do not participate in pre-school education fall behind in public schools and don’t graduate,” said Patillo, who is also chairman of the Portsmouth School Board.
Addressing failures in public education is part of President Joe Biden’s agenda in the American Families Plan. It’s a sweeping human infrastructure improvement project that failed to make the cut in his previous bipartisan infrastructure plan.
Patillo is calling on Congress to support the $1.8-trillion plan saying the lives of children, the workforce, the economy, and crime reflect academic achievement in communities.
“You see that education ties to the crime rates in the area, as well as the economic development of the area. So we must focus on preschool education,” said Patillo.
A previous bipartisan effort known as the CARES Act is funding another free program at Mile High in Lynn Shores to help children prepare for the 2021-2022 school year.
Beginning July 10 at 9 a.m., Mile High will launch its free Summer Prep Academy for children across the region. The program is free and the Saturday classes will run through October. For more information on the program call 757-962-8005.