“PHLpreK is a win-win. If you live in Philadelphia, you get free childcare and you can pick the school that you want to go to. The paperwork is not too cumbersome. It’s super easy to enroll,” said Christine Viteo, Executive Director of Prodigy Learning Center in North Philadelphia. “Economically, it also helps families. And students that go to pre-K are better prepared for kindergarten.”
Prodigy Learning Center provides infant care through 5th grade education. Christine opened the center nearly 30 years ago, after she started having children of her own. “I knew my own expectations for handling children. All these kids are like my children and I want the best for them,” said Christine.
When PHLpreK launched in January 2017, Prodigy was one of the first programs to participate. This coming school year, four of the center’s eight pre-K classrooms are funded by PHLpreK.
“We have a high demand from families with 3- and 4-year-olds,” said Christine. “As we joined PHLpreK I realized how big of a problem children not going to school in Philadelphia was. Seeing kids coming in to school for the first time scared and then seeing them transform in a few months into loving school is the most rewarding.”
“I always tell our employees, ‘This isn’t a regular job. You have to be super passionate about what you’re doing. You have to understand that you’re shaping little minds,’” said Christine. “You’ll see that some of our teachers have been around for over 20 years.”
Prodigy is a STAR 4 center, having received the state’s highest quality rating. “We’re proud of the fact that we’re a STAR 4 school and we really strive to provide high quality teachers,” said Christine. “PHLpreK has helped us increase our teacher’s salaries and this gives us better retention. Although we had a STAR 4 rating before we went into the PHLpreK program, staff retention allows us to keep our STAR rating.”
One of Christine’s favorite things at Prodigy is the school’s new lending library program. Families and children can borrow books each weekend.
“We also just got a therapy dog,” said Christine. “We are very science and animal based. We have a garden here. We’re purchasing chickens and a chicken coop so that the children and their parents can use our vegetables and eggs.”The center also plans to add English as a second language (ESL) programming soon.
“PHLpreK is a wonderful opportunity. Your STAR rating can improve because there are so many educated people coming into your schools. It’s a great support system, not just for directors, but also for staff,” said Christine.
Will your child be 3 or 4 by September 1? 140+ PHLpreK centers all across the city are enrolling! PHLpreK seats at Prodigy are full for the 2019-2020 school year, but Christine said interested families can contact the center to join their waiting list.
Visit phlprek.org/programs to find a center near you and enroll your child today. PHLpreK is free, and has no income or work requirements.
“Being in PHLpreK, students develop such a great base of knowledge,” said Christine. “Our PHLpreK students know 100 sight words before the school year is over. That’s amazing because you expect that in kindergarten. But they didn’t even know they were learning and that’s the beauty of preschool,” said Christine.
Act fast; seats are filling up quickly! Go to phlprek.org or call 844-PHL-PREK to learn more and find a program near you!