April 6 to 12 is The Week of the Young Child, an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. It’s an opportunity to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families. Although Westchester is known for its wealth and advantage, there are children challenged by poverty and without access to the same opportunities to succeed in their homes, schools, communities and the workforce as their more economically advantaged peers in neighboring communities.
Julian Gomez and his mother Maria.
Meet Julian Gomez!
Forty year old attorney Julian Gomez is getting ready to relocate from New York to Tokyo, Japan. He will be senior legal counsel at Sojitz Corporation of America, part of the Sojitz Group, a multi-national corporation with operations throughout the world. Before Sojitz, he was an associate at Proskauer Rose, one of New York's most well-known law firms. And before that, long before that, Julian was a toddler participating with his mother in the WJCS Parent-Child Home Program.
Julian Gomez is a current member of the WJCS Board of Directors and a member of the Board of the National Parent Child Home Program. As Julian and his wife Margarita, who are expecting their first child, get ready to move to Tokyo, we share his story with great pride.
Julian's mother, Maria, immigrated to the United States from Colombia a year before Julian was born. Maria spoke very little English but was committed to giving her children the best educational opportunities. Living in White Plains, NY, she found the support of WJCS and learned of the Parent-Child Home Program. She signed up right away. Julian vividly remembers starting the Program - the face of his early literacy specialist and his mother's excitement. He believes the Program helped his mother become comfortable in her role as his first teacher and made him comfortable with himself as a learner.
"The Program gave me the confidence I needed to enter school and learn English," said Julian. In fact, when Julian went back and reviewed his own pre-k and kindergarten records, he discovered that his teachers had noted that, even as he was still working on learning English, he was very focused on learning and very comfortable interacting with all the different children in the classroom. Maria credits the Program with supporting her in teaching her children to love to learn.
Julian said, "PCHP helped set our priorities. My mother and I were always on the same page about education and its importance." Julian graduated, earned a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University and a J.D. from Pace University School of Law. Julian draws a clear line from his involvement in WJCS The Parent-Child Home Program to his academic success.
Julian states, "I noticed it at my 10 year reunion. Out of the group of 40 of us or so, that I considered to be the kids from the neighborhood, a handful of us did the Parent-Child Home Program, and that small handful of us were the ones that went off to college and the others did not. I think the one obvious factor was the Parent-Child Home Program."
Achievement Gap in Westchester
The Facts about Poverty and Westchester’s Children:
One out of every 8 children in Westchester lives in a family at or below the federal poverty level.
16.4% of children under age 5 in Westchester live in poverty.
Some local neighborhoods in Westchester have a child poverty rate as high as 38%.
Childhood poverty is linked to reduced academic attainment. This has long-term negative effects on a child’s ability to succeed as an independent member of his or her community.
Right here in Westchester, there is a significant educational achievement gap between children from low-income communities and their more economically advantaged peers in neighboring communities.
Education is the single strongest preventative tool against poverty.
Investment in early childhood programs provide the greatest returns in human capital and a high return on investment to society through increased personal achievement and social productivity.
WJCS provides programs using research-proven curricula that support early learning and school readiness:
The WJCS Parent-Child Home Program is the only prototype of the National Parent-Child Home Program in Westchester. For more than 40 years the WJCS Parent Child Home Program and innovations to the national model have paid dividends to thousands of students and parents in the early years and in the long-term.
The WJCS Building Better Beginnings program provides extensive training, support and consultation to early childhood staff working with pre-school children in child-care and Head Start settings and their families. This capacity-building program supports healthy child development and learning readiness.
Articles of Interest
What’s missing in the current debate over economic inequality is enough serious discussion about investing in effective early childhood development from birth to age 5.
Research shows that brain development is buoyed by continuous interaction with parents and caregivers from birth, and that even before age 2, the children of the wealthy know more words than do those of the poor. Like the program featured in this New York Times article, Trying to Close a Knowledge Gap Word by Word, WJCS programs support parents to turn even a visit to the kitchen into a language lesson.