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Detroit The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation Invests In Teach For America To Increase Early Childhood Education Opportunities In Detroit

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced an investment of $225,000 in Teach For America’s work to ensure that the youngest students in Detroit and Buffalo, NY have access to excellent educational opportunities.

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced an investment of $225,000 in Teach For America’s work to ensure that the youngest students in Detroit and Buffalo, NY have access to excellent educational opportunities. The gift will directly support the recruitment and training of early childhood educators who will lead some of Detroit’s and Buffalo’s highest need pre-kindergarten classrooms.

Since 2015, Teach For America–Detroit has been partnering with local early childhood centers and schools to recruit and train early childhood education (ECE) teachers who are committed to ensuring all of Detroit’s children have access to the opportunities that will set them up for a lifetime of success. The Wilson Foundation investment will enable TFA–Detroit to recruit and train additional early childhood educators each year, growing the number of leaders who are working collectively across Detroit to help build a strong educational foundation for our youngest learners.

Through this partnership, Teach For America Detroit recruits promising leaders with degrees in early childhood education, who want to have immediate and significant impact in their classrooms, and work long-term to tackle the complex and systemic barriers to opportunity that children growing up in poverty face. Teach For America–Detroit’s ECE corps members and alumni become part of the larger TFA coalition of nearly 700 across Detroit who are working together to expand opportunity for students. In just their second year in Detroit’s classrooms, 100 percent of Teach For America ECE teachers achieved the equivalent of at least one year of growth on the HighScope Child Observation Record (COR) Advantage Assessment.

“We are grateful for the Wilson Foundation’s support that will allow us to recruit an increasing number of diverse, high quality early childhood educators who are committed to changing the system so that all children have an excellent and equitable education,” said Rachele DiMeglio Adam, managing director of external affairs and operations for Teach For America-Detroit. “We’re also looking forward to partnering with local schools of education to recruit outstanding ECE graduates who are committed to realizing equity in our city.”

In Michigan, only eighteen percent of four year olds are enrolled in pre-K programs. Research shows that children who lack exposure to early educational experiences enter school behind their peers. Children growing up in historically marginalized and disenfranchised communities are disproportionately impacted: infants and toddlers from low-income communities are exposed to fifteen million words, compared to the average forty-five million that children in affluent communities are exposed to. And, by age four, children who live below the poverty line are developmentally eighteen months behind their peers. Teach For America Detroit believes that increasing early literacy and math skills among all preschoolers in the city is vital to making sure that all of Detroit’s students have access to the opportunities that will allow them to reach their full potential and become the next generation of leaders in the city.

“This is an important investment in Detroit’s future,” said Amber Slichta, Vice President of Programs, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “The city’s youth are full of potential and our greatest hope. We’re grateful to TFA leaders and other early childhood educators across Detroit who are working thoughtfully to ensure all students have access to the educational opportunities they deserve.”

Teach For America launched a national Early Childhood Education (ECE) Initiative in 2006 with twelve teachers in Washington D.C. Since then, TFA has recruited, trained, and developed over 1,300 pre-K teachers who are teaching in twenty-three regions across the country, including Detroit and Buffalo. Teach For America has become one of the nation’s largest providers of early childhood education teachers and has a track record of success in promoting learning and development for students. In addition to a focus on excellent academic opportunities, TFA’s ECE Initiative is focused on a holistic approach to student growth, ensuring that students are developing socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically so they are ready for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Teach For America’s ECE alumni continue to contribute to the early childhood education field as teachers, leadersof pre-K focused schools and nonprofits, and public policy advocates. These leaders include Sophia Pappas (New Jersey  Corps ’03), the author of Good Morning Children: My First Years in Early Childhood Education, and most recently served as the executive director of New York City’s Department of Education’s Office of Early Childhood Education, during a time that saw the number of students in pre-K triple to more than 70,000. Kelly Lambrinatos (St. Louis Corps ’07) and Jesse Illhardt (Chicago Corps ’08) co-founded VOCEL, an innovative preschool program in Chicago designed to meet children’s language and social-emotional needs. Andria Ryberg (Las Vegas Valley Corps ’05 alumna) is the executive director with Garden of Dreams Community Preschool and Child Care in Battle Creek, MI. And, as a recipient of the Kinder Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award, Matthew O’Connor (Houston Corps ’09) continues leading from the classroom, teaching with Seattle’s South Shore K-8; advocating for the passage of legislation to create the Seattle Preschool Program; and serving on the advisory committee to implement the approved program.

About The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a grantmaking organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The two areas reflect Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s devotion to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his Buffalo Bills franchise. Prior to his passing in 2014, Mr. Wilson requested that a significant share of his estate be used to continue a life-long generosity of spirit by funding the Foundation that bears his name. The Foundation has a grantmaking capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period, which expires January 8, 2035. This structure is consistent with Mr. Wilson’s desire for the Foundation’s impact to be immediate, substantial, measurable and overseen by those who knew him best. For more information visit

About Teach For America

Teach For America works in partnership with urban and rural communities in more than 50 regions across the country to expand educational opportunity for children. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding leaders to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity. Today Teach For America is a force of 56,000 alumni and corps members committed to profound systemic change. From classrooms to districts to state houses across America, they’re reimagining education to realize the day when every child has an equal opportunity to learn, to grow, to influence, and to lead. For more information, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Natalie Laraque