Diane Bernard, Public News Service – MD

BALTIMORE – More low-income preschoolers in the Baltimore area will be ready when kindergarten starts next week because of their time at what are commonly known as the “Judy Centers.”

TheBaltimore Community Foundationis a supporter of the Judith P. Hoyer Center Early Learning Hubs. Billie Malcolm, the foundation’s program officer, said 55% of all kindergarteners in Baltimore City Judy Centers are ready to learn, according to the state’s latest Kindergarten Reading Assessment, compared with 39% in the city and 47% of preschoolers overall in the state.

“When you provide the proper support for families and children, you’re getting them outperforming their peers by, in this case, about 16 points, and even the state, by eight points,” she said, “and that just excites me very much.”

As of 2018, 56 Judy Centers, which are located in Title I schools, served more than 15,000 children in every county in the state, providing full-day, full-year services.

The Baltimore Community Foundation also funds a new initiative at five Judy Centers. The “Leading Men” program provides training and jobs for young men of color to be tutors in a pre-K classroom in their own neighborhoods. Malcolm said Leading Men has proven to increase school readiness levels for Latino and African-American boys, and employs an often-overlooked population.

“I’ve seen the magic with kids and teachers that love these young African-American and Hispanic males coming in to support, every single day,” she said, “and the stories they tell are amazing – from the way they connect with parents to the way they can run an intervention with a child that may be a teacher can’t do.”

She said the foundation is funding the Leading Men program until 2021. It also granted about $4 million between 2013 and 2017 to expand the number of Judy Centers in Baltimore, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.

That annual report is online at earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...