Most people spend much of their childhood and adolescence in school. It is a period of time that strongly determines a person’s career options later on in life. Kindergarten teachers felt that their kids did not arrive to their schools ready, so the concept of preschools came about. There needed to be a place where young children got used to the school environment, learned fundamental things about safety, health, and literacy, and got to interact with other children under the supervision of professionals. So how is the Maywood community being served in regards to educating our younger children? Let’s have a look at one of those of our city’s preschools.
CODELA, which stands for Coalición de Latinos Americanos, is a private preschool that serves low income families by providing healthy meals, active play, and engaging educational activities to young children, all the while staying in touch with the community at large. With the goal of making children comfortable and successful in the scholastic world, CODELA takes the initiative in providing a preschool experience that is memorable and useful to all involved. Their Maywood branch is located within Iglesia Betania exclusively for reasons of space; CODELA is secular in instruction; respectful of and neutral to all religious beliefs.
I interviewed the leaders of the school; dedicated educators who have the community’s success in mind. Carlos Ruvalcaba, Martina Díaz, and Ana Popper guided me in a tour of the history, activities, and goals of CODELA.
How did CODELA start?
CODELA had its inception in the Willy Velazquez Center in Bell, California. In our efforts to help people become legal residents and citizens to increase the voting demographic in our community, we got the attention of Mario A. Muniz. He was a top official in the state Department of Education. It was an opportune moment when we met him as he was instrumental in funding the preschool, as well as other organizations such as: the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, Quality Children’s Services, Kids First Learning Centers, Institute for Leadership development in Education, and the UNIMAX Foundation.
What is CODELA exactly?
We are a preschool that had its origins in a time when preschools were still a relatively new thing. Nowadays it’s strongly recommended, but not required, for children to attend preschool. Kindergarten teachers can tell you that it’s very important for kids to gain the mannerism of school life early on, and preschool gives young children that experience in a comfortable, safe, and nourishing environment.
We are under Title Five of the California Department of education, and Title 22 of the Community Care licensing. In other words, we are a private school, but we function with public funding, so that we may provide our services free of charge to our low income customers. But beyond that, we feel that we are part of a greater cause. As our name implies, we see ourselves as a coalition to help our community become more educated, prosperous, and adjusted.
How does a typical day look like in CODELA in the point of view of the child?
We open each day with a greeting, then we have a healthy meal consisting of vegetables, proteins and dairy. We have Circle Time, Music, Visual Arts, and Open Discussions. Aside from having our kids be physically active and playing with different toys, we also have activities that are teacher centered, as well as others that are child centered, to help kids develop reading and speaking skills.
Sounds like a lot of work for the teachers. What kind of background do you require of the teachers you hire?
They must be educated in Child Development, knowledgeable of Learning Foundations standards, and understand that they are Mandated Reporters. If we notice a significant change in the children’s behavior, we will speak with the parents, or if we see evidence of abuse, we will do what it takes for an investigation to take place from the proper authorities. It is important for us to have a professional faculty and staff so that our children are protected and served.
Do you have a waiting list of families who want to be part of your school?
Actually, yes we do, but we have plans to expand so that we can service more families. When we first started, the number of children we taught was around 72, now it’s around 312, and in the future, we want to service 1000. We are located in other places besides Maywood, so you can count on us making our services reach further.
What should parents do if they want their children to join your school?
To enter the program parents should contact the site supervisor and the facility. Again, there is a waiting list, but everyone is encouraged to apply. We only have one requirement; children must be potty trained. We cannot have adults accompany children to the restroom, therefore, the children must be potty trained by their own parents or guardians.