Opportunity Champion

Banu Valladares - Part 2 (Addressing COVID-19)
Executive Director, Charlotte Bilingual Preschool

How Charlotte Bilingual Preschool is address COVID-19

— In this series, we highlight the work of our partners in our Opportunity Movement and share their vision for Charlotte’s future.

Collaborating for Opportunity – Charlotte Bilingual Preschool | Part 2 of 2

The rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in our county placed an unexpected strain on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg organizations who were already serving vulnerable residents in need of security for housing, jobs, food, and finances as well as those in need of educational resources to adjust to teaching children inside the home.

Charlotte Bilingual Preschool (CltBP) serves local Latinx children and families living in poverty who are most vulnerable to the social, health, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic; including employment, housing, food, and access to community health and support resources. With 20+ years of experience serving Charlotte’s Latinx community and a majority- bilingual staff, 88% of whom are people of color, the organization is a trusted and informed source of support for families who are often marginalized and isolated.

In the second part of our interview with Charlotte Bilingual Pre School Executive Director Banu Valladares, we take a closer look at how the organization is meeting the needs of the families it serves.

Leading on Opportunity: How are you/your organization responding to changing needs of our community as a result of COVID-19?

Banu Valladares: We are operating programs remotely in the interest of the health and safety of our children, team members, and community and to ensure our children and families continue to have access to high-quality programs so they can thrive. Specifically, we are:

Providing supplemental, remote learning for our children and families. Our teachers are reaching out to their students’ families through the “Remind” app to discuss best ways to stay connected, and to provide them with tips and ideas to help them keep their children safe, learning, and engaged. We are also helping the few families without access to the app to sign up.

Providing families with resources for their safety and well-being, including assistance with basic needs. Our Family Programsteam is actively tracking and seeking resources to support families during this difficult time. During weekly calls, teachers refer families who have needs beyond what the city and county provide for their child’s education to our Family Educator for follow up. We now have ten families on our list, and we expect this number to keep growing. We will be working with our board to ensure this happens.

Continuing to support our ParentChild+ (PC+, home visiting program) families remotely. One of our successful efforts has been to have our Early Learning Specialists provide current PC+ families with materials for the next several weeks. They connect with parents through phone and video chat to ensure that they continue to engage their children through play and reading. View one of the family videos.

Continuing to accept applications for both our 3-year-old and our 4-year-old MECK Pre-K programs. We have sent the application packet and the link to MECK Pre-K services via email to all families to use and share with others they know who might want to join our programs. We have also placed paper copies of our application packets in our little Free Library to the right of our main door. Two staff are available via email and phone to assist with the application process.

Leading on Opportunity: What are some of the immediate needs that have arisen for the Latinx community during this pandemic?

Banu Valladares: Our staff has risen to the challenges presented by COVID-19 by quickly adjusting to operating all programs remotely and building a referral system to coordinate resources to meet emerging family needs. We have three immediate needs in our response to this crisis:

  1. Food Support for Families – Our families have been economically impacted through lost jobs and children are no longer receiving free nutritional meals and snacks provided through our program. Not all families are eligible for meal support provided through Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and other community programs. CltBP contracts with the local business Manolo’s Bakery to provide healthy, culturally appropriate meals and snacks to our students. Bakery owner Manolo Betancur, a local Latinx business owner and advocate, is prepared to continue to provide this food service to our families to be delivered by our staff to families in need. And continuing our contract with Manolo’s Bakery has the added benefits of supporting a local Latinx food business, employment for their staff, and providing culturally familiar, nutritious food to families in times of high stress and limited access to nutrition.
  2. Phone and Data Cost Relief – The families we serve primarily use smart phones, not computers, to communicate online and access resources. In order to serve our families remotely, our educators are using their personal phones to conference with families and provide video content through the WhatsApp and Remind phone applications. And isolated families are relying on these applications to stay connected with their community. Without dedicated internet service, data costs are quickly increasing for our staff and families. To continue to provide at-home educational support, conferencing, and resource referrals, our educators and families require additional financial support to relieve their increasing phone and data costs.
  3. Employment at CltBP – We are proud of the of the quick and creative adjustments our staff has made to program delivery, family support, and internal responsibilities to best serve Charlotte’s Latinx children and families. We are also proud that we have been able to keep our staff employed through these hard times, a testimony to our commitment to the financial stability of our diverse staff of 27, 4 of whom were hired from our own CltBP parent community.

To learn more, visit their website or follow Charlotte Bilingual Preschool on Facebook and Twitter.