Precious in His Sight

June 19, 2019


By: Melissa McGill

The Children of the World Learning Center — a bilingual, multicultural preschool at Central United Methodist Church in East Charlotte —  offers shared learning opportunities for children and families of varied cultures, languages, and incomes leading to increased school readiness and accelerated language acquisition. 
 
The Children of the World Learning Center — a bilingual, multicultural preschool at Central United Methodist Church in East Charlotte —  offers shared learning opportunities for children and families of varied cultures, languages, and incomes leading to increased school readiness and accelerated language acquisition. 
 
On Pentecost Sunday, Children of the World Learning Center had their first preschool graduation. This was the “culmination of tremendous investment from Central United Methodist Church, Wesley Community Development Corporation and the Western North Carolina Justice and Reconciliation team, who gave time, energy and grants to make the preschool a reality,” said Rev. Susan Suárez Webster, assistant pastor for community outreach at Central. In its first year, the preschool had 20 students with backgrounds from 11 different nations. Three students graduated and many of the younger students are expected to return next year.

Central participated in Wesley CDC’s Seeds of Change training, which “introduces churches to creative ways to use church property for greater ministry and community connection,” said Rev. Karen Easter Bayne, vice president of church engagement for Wesley CDC. “As Central developed their idea to create this new multicultural, multilingual preschool, we worked with them to assess the building and design the renovations that would be needed.” Central also received a $10,000 grant for building renovations. 

As the children come in, they fall right into their familiar routine, washing their hands, checking themselves in on a bilingual board and then gathering at learning stations in groups. Maria Cardarelli is the Program Administrator for the Children of the World Learning Center and brings 18 years of experience in preschool dual language programing. Cardarelli was born in Venezula to an immigrant family from Italy. She adopted her third culture and language when she moved to the United States 23 years ago.

“Seeing the different families, from different backgrounds, different cultures connect immediately has been an incredible experience,” said Cardarelli. “We embrace diversity and we are also open to listen and to let everyone participate in their own space.”

Parent Karla Larraga found out about the new bilingual preschool through a booth at the annual carnival that the church hosts. “I’m bilingual but when I was going to school, this kind of thing wasn’t offered,” she said. Her son is four years old and it was important to her that he learn both languages. “He gets to socialize with other kids his own age and learn about their cultures. He comes home singing Spanish songs. He really loves it.”

Another parent, Amy Hawn Nelson, is an educational researcher with a background in teaching and administration. “I wanted my daughter in a dual language environment and an intentionally diverse environment. This has exceeded every expectation we had,” Hawn Nelson said. “She knows all her letters and sounds, she can count to 20 in Spanish and English, all of her colors in both languages. It’s been a really good academic experience but also a really good social one.”

Jill Henley goes to church at Central and teaches in English on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the preschool. Her teaching partner, Irma Sandoval, teaches in Spanish on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “The exciting part of the multicultural piece is that it made itself happen. We ARE multicultural because of who we serve,” Henley shared. “It’s a natural expression of who we are.”
 

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