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In Pickens Technical College’s Early Childhood Education program, part of your curriculum is learning just how important early childhood education is for young and growing minds. You’ll also learn that many families across Colorado and the country struggle to find programs for their children.

Access to childcare, education, and specifically preschool education has been a hot-button issue politically in Colorado for years. New governor Jared Polis, in particular, has been a champion of early childhood education, and many of his goals as governor involve expanding access to public early education programs. 

In the absence of affordable childcare and preschool options, some parents are turning to a new approach created by a couple who saw a new way to provide these crucial services to parents and students in their community.

An Innovative Early Childhood Education Option

Alexa Garrido and Rany Elissa, a husband and wife team, built a tutoring business together and frequently found themselves squeezed for space in many school districts their students were in across Colorado. The libraries were full, the rec centers unusable, and tutoring became difficult. 

So, recognizing the huge importance of providing early childhood education to families without access to these programs, particularly in rural areas of the state, they decided to take their services to parents and kids where they lived. 

Garrido and Elissa’s “school on wheels” sets up in a disadvantaged community in Thornton. They say that the community is about 90% Latino. The eight children who attend every day are between three and six years old. Most of them speak Spanish at home and would undoubtedly struggle in public school without the help of the school on wheels. 

“We’re looking for communities that have a need. So it’s going to be generally your lower-income areas or areas that do not have access to preschool,” said Rany Elissa.

Garrido and Elissa used their savings and some of their profits from their tutoring business to buy a bus at auction. They gutted the bus and outfitted it with a smartboard, air conditioning, and a bathroom. Still, they needed permits and support from the city to park their bus. 

Community Support

Garrido and Elissa found the support they needed from Daniel Dick, the mayor of Federal Heights, Colorado. Dick acknowledges the struggles of many of his residents, particularly in education. He says that many areas of town are so-called “childcare deserts,” where access to affordable childcare, preschool, and daycare is extremely limited. 

With Dick’s help, Garrido and Elissa are spreading the word about their operation and hoping to help more communities in the area in the future.

Quality early childhood education is crucial for a child’s executive functioning. Children are learning crucial social and emotional skills at the daycare or preschool age. They’re practicing self-regulation and learning what behaviors are appropriate. Entering a larger classroom without these skills in place puts them at a huge disadvantage when the grades and group projects start entering the picture.

Projects like the school on wheels show a great need for early childhood education, and that many communities around the state are finding ways to improve access to it.