Cue the sad music. My third (and last) baby is about to graduate from the Richard S. Adler Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC) at The Roth Family JCC. For the better part of 10 years, at least one of my children has been attending the JCC preschool. The kids may have gotten a stellar start, but I can say with 100 percent certainty that all five of us are better for the experience, and what we’ve all learned at the J has benefited my family in more ways than I could even count.
My boys, who are about to start middle school and high school next year, couldn’t have been more prepared for school academically. But more importantly, the JCC Preschool helped make them good people. While the ECLC works on all of the pre-kindergarten skills you’d expect, the school’s main focus is socially and emotionally preparing children for the world.
Children who attend the ECLC come from all backgrounds and religions, and all are embraced by the school.
“We are preparing them for life as humans, not just students,” says Melissa Youngblood, who is completing her first year as ECLC director. “We teach kindness, leadership, and community to our children.”
Community is a cornerstone for the entire JCC. Walking into the building is akin to entering Cheers, where everybody knows your name. My daughter, Billie, high-fives the security guard singing “Hi Mr. Mike” as we approach the building. She waves at Miss Robin who sits at the registrar’s office in the lobby. Billie usually tells her some interesting fact about her outfit, or what she ate for breakfast, or what she brought for show and share. Robin acts as if it’s the best news she’s heard all day. Then my daughter bounces into the preschool where we are always greeted by the smiliest lady in town, Miss Judy, who welcomes every child by name as families swipe their keycards to get in. Every child is greeted the moment they enter the classroom. My daughter usually runs to embrace her teacher, Mrs. Smith, as if she hasn’t seen her in weeks.
While at the ECLC, my kids have taken more enrichment classes than I can remember. The highlights have been guitar, movie-making class, dance, yoga, keyboards, karate, gymnastics, and ballroom dance. Believe me when I tell you there is nothing more adorable than two four-year-olds doing a salsa.
After my daughter graduates, I’ll miss the feeling of community that I get every day in that building. I’ll miss knowing with confidence that my daughter is being loved and cared for every moment of the day. I’ll miss her coming home and insisting that we have to plant a tree because Mrs. Arielli told her that it was Tu B’Shevat (a Jewish holiday that often involves tree planting). But I leave knowing that my children spent the most pivotal years of their lives in the best place possible, and I know the future of the ECLC is in good hands. The best news? We don’t have to say goodbye completely – we’ll be back, every summer, for camp!