St. Mark Child & Family Development Center, often described as the beacon of light at the top of the hill in Kansas City, is a center of wonder and amazement for all children attending. Despite the fact that it lies in one of the poorest zip codes of the county, Deidre Anderson, the Executive Director of United Inner City Services, and her team of teachers believe that this should not be the biggest determining factor for the students’ life outcome.
The team works hard to expose their children to the richness and fullness of all opportunities that are available in school and life. This vision makes their development center not like any other in that area.
Having served as the director for at-risk programs in the Hickman Mills School District, Deidre already had a glimpse into the often non-existence preschool education of children in Kansas City, which is why it is her greatest joy to now help build exactly that foundation.
Knowing how vital early childhood education is, St. Mark Child & Family Development Center approaches schooling in different ways, which Deidre explains in this episode.
- Their partnership with the Foster Grandparent Association ensures that there are always grandmothers present in the classrooms. This extra caretaker adds a warm, empathetic spirit to the room and gives teachers an extra hand when needed.
- Art is a big part of the program. Children and their families are exposed to all kinds of arts: from full-blown performances on sight to one-on-one time with kids who are struggling.
- The Development Center is a trauma-informed facility. Deidre shares how staff is being trained to recognize warning signs of trauma and also take care of themselves while teaching children how to self-regulate in times of distress.
- They work closely with parents and Deidre explains how parents receive the somewhat strict rules of attendance and involvement.
On top of approaching schooling in a different way and knowing that the behavior of a child in the classroom is just a symptom of something else that might happen in their lives, the facilities serves families in the following ways:
- Help with finding new housing
- Employment and financial management trainings
- Job skills trainings
- Financial literacy and budgeting trainings
- Domestic violence support
Over the years, the teams noticed how their approach changes children and parents. A recent study confirmed that their children outperformed, social-emotionally and intellectually, students of other kindergartens.
Listen to this episode to find out about the center’s unique approach to managing teachers’ time for educational development and self-care, funding and managing fundraisers and how we all need to do our part to help this growing population of urban kids.