Community Impact Director Speaks to Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners at Budget Priority Public Hearing

Yuly Rodriguez, Community Impact Director, Leading on Opportunity - January 15, 2019

It is now our opportunity to rally behind our community, which in part includes the Latinx community, that represents one quarter of the children entering kindergarten in Charlotte every year - about 3,000 children.

Good evening. My name is Yuly Rodriguez. I’m here tonight to speak to you as a Community Impact Director at Leading On Opportunity, the nonprofit organization created to follow up on the recommendations made by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force in 2017.

Leading On Opportunity’s focus is on the root causes of poverty, and barriers to upward mobility. With a goal to systemically prioritize those actions that can create and sustain long-lasting and effective generational change and access to opportunity for ALL.

On a professional level, this is why MECK Pre K is of importance to me, but on a personal level, it hits very close to home. I am a member of the Latinx community, an immigrant and a mother of a 4-year old bi-lingual child. I was born in Colombia and moved with my parents to the United States when I was 8. I learned early on about the barriers faced by my community; I learned first-hand about the challenges of learning a new language and the struggles faced by many Latinx families trying to balance family life with financial responsibilities. Without my community coming together to support our family’s needs holistically, I would not be before you today. Due to this, I am passionate about the importance of early care and education options for all children.

It is now our opportunity to rally behind our community, which in part includes the Latinx community, that represents one quarter of the children entering kindergarten in Charlotte every year - about 3,000 children. I am worried that without expanding MECK Pre-K, the Latinx community will be left behind.

Research shows that low-income Hispanic parents are very likely to work nonstandard hours and to have fluctuating schedules. With the long waiting list at the Charlotte Bilingual Preschool, where classes are bilingual, and teachers understand the culture, low-income parents too often turn to informal arrangements, limiting the exposure to high standards of care and educational rigor that will ensure their children are ready for school and their future.

MECK Pre-K staff are meeting needs holistically and understand the interdependence between child and family stability and early care and education. On multiple occasions, staff has bridged gaps and helped families find much needed resources. I recently learned of a case where through connections to partners, MECK Pre-K staff was able to help a family facing homelessness. So, MECK Pre-K is not just a pre-k program; it’s addressing the root causes of poverty and tackling barriers to upward mobility.

MECK Pre-K is an essential component in addressing the needs of the Latinx community and closing the outcome gap so that all children have an equal opportunity for upward mobility. It starts with access to pre-k. I hope you will make expanding MECK Pre-K a priority.