Nonprofit program in Charlotte making difference by preparing kids for preschool

CHARLOTTE — Preparing your child for preschool can sometimes be a challenge, but a program in Charlotte is working to prepare children with the tools they need before they head to pre-K.

ParentChild+ looks to fulfill those needs. The nonprofit helps kids in disadvantaged communities prepare for preschool by teaming them up with a learning specialist twice a week.

Darlyn Estrada says the program has sped up the learning process for her two-year-old daughter, Ashley. Estrada says she can already differentiate colors and follow instructions.

Estrada says her daughter can do things at two-and-a-half that her five-year-old brother is doing now.

New funding from the American Prospect Research Association and from private donors is allowing ParentChild+ to expand. One hundred families will now be served on a year-round basis at the Charlotte Bilingual Preschool and Inlivian communities in Mecklenburg County.

The reason for expanding is that data shows the program is working.

Iggy Austin, the family program manager for the Charlotte Bilingual Preschool, says children in the program are showing their growth.

“We see the children are starting at a higher level than the kids that have not participated in ParentChild+,” Austin said.

New internal data from the school shows more kids are near grade level when it comes to academic and language skills. Twenty-seven percent of students exceeded expectations in English vocabulary skills, compared to 14 percent of students who did not go through the program.

When Channel 9′s Gina Esposito first covered the program as it launched two years ago, only 15 percent of students at the preschool were performing at grade level.

Now, 50 kids have graduated from the school.

On top of preparing kids for preschool, the program also employs parents.

Dinorah Castro, whose three-year-old daughter just finished the program, says she landed a job thanks to the school.

“It’s very exciting,” Castro said.

Castro is even more excited as she is going to be a an apprentice in her child’s classroom.

Families First will expand the program in Cabarrus County. They accept students as young as 16 months. For more information on the program and if you may qualify, click here.

(WATCH BELOW: Nonprofit introduces bilingual Charlotte preschoolers to STEM)

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