Meet Banu Valladares
— In this series, we highlight the work of our partners in our Opportunity Movement and share their vision for Charlotte’s future.
Meet our Opportunity Champion, Banu Valladares, Executive Director of Charlotte Bilingual Preschool
Moving Charlotte from 50 out of 50 in economic mobility requires a deeply collaborative, community effort. With that in mind, Leading on Opportunity set an ambitious goal: to build, with partners, an Opportunity Movement that celebrates everyone's contributions. On March 26, 2019, we recognized the work of 50 Inaugural Opportunity Champions. Through their work in the community, these fifty incorporate the recommended strategies that help individuals transition to a self-sustaining path in life. Often without any public recognition, this group of distinguished leaders do the work that is required to build a stronger, more equitable community – in which all children, youth and families can thrive.
In this Opportunity Champions series, we highlight the work of our partners in this Movement and share their vision for Charlotte’s future. Meet our Opportunity Champion, Banu Valladares, executive director of Charlotte Bilingual Preschool. This is a two-part interview.
Leading on Opportunity: How is your work helping to improve economic mobility for residents of Charlotte-Mecklenburg?
Banu Valladares: As we know, the achievement gap is set by age five. Children who enter Kindergarten behind are half as likely to read proficiently in third grade and a third of Latinx students who do not read proficiently in third grade drop out of high school. Charlotte Bilingual Preschool (CltBP) disrupts this trajectory through a two-generation (2Gen) approach: addressing both the needs of children and their families.
For children ages 3-5, CltBP offers the only 5-star licensed dual language Preschool Program in the state. We also offer a weekly workshop for caregivers and their children birth to 3 years, Creciendo Juntos. Our Family Programs empower families as partners and include ESL classes, workshops, and community-building opportunities. We also offer ParentChild+, a proven home visiting program that supports the transition to pre-K and connects families to resources. Additionally, we partner with local organizations to provide occupational therapy, speech therapy, and onsite family counseling.
Leading on Opportunity: What does opportunity mean to you?
Banu Valladares: To CltBP, opportunity means creating pathways for Spanish-speaking children to succeed in school and life with the support of their families.
Leading on Opportunity: How does Leading on Opportunity’s North Star Goal inspire and connect to your work?
Banu Valladares: Every year, 3,000 Latinx children enter Kindergarten in Mecklenburg County. Currently CltBP serves a little over 200 children each year. That is not enough. Leading on Opportunity’s North Star Goal has urged us to make a deeper commitment to serving more children faster. We are committed to evolving to meet the needs of our growing community, and we started this year through two new partnerships. Our families told us that they needed extended day programs. In response, we are partnering with MECK Pre-K to lengthen the school day, deepening impact for students and increasing accessibility for working families. This year, we are also piloting the proven ParentChild+ model to address the trend of children entering CltBP further behind each year. Serving families with children ages 2-4 years, Early Learning Specialists support kindergarten readiness and connect families to resources in weekly visits for two years.
On January 17, 2020, our board of directors approved a strategic plan for the organization outlining a five-year effort to expand and deepen its impact. Our long-term objective is to scale up the CltBP model to serve half of the community need by leveraging partnerships while carefully preserving quality, cultural relevance, and sensitivity. We believe all children should enter school with the skills and engaged families they need to succeed.