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2000 Best Practice Awards

Best of the Best Winner: Alabama

Best Practice: Bright Beginnings Preschool

Preschool Gives Public Housing Children a Bright Beginning

Andalusia, Alabama. The Andalusia Housing Authority, which has 120 units in southern Alabama, began to see an increasing number of high school dropouts in the community, particularly among youth living in public housing. The housing authority’s executive director knew that the parents living in public housing could not afford to send their children to preschool, but the families wanted their children to have the same opportunities as their more affluent peers do before entering the public school system. With the goal to do something for the children in the Andalusia Housing Authority, the housing authority gained approval from HUD to convert one housing

Recipients receiving award from Secretary Cuomo & Deputy Secretary Ramirez
Recipients receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

unit into a nonprofit preschool. A cooperative agreement with the local school board enabled a teacher to be available for one year. In 1991, the school opened its doors to 17 three- and four-year olds.

Since the first graduation in 1991, 153 children have participated in the program and 100 have graduated. The Alabama Department of Human Resources and the JOBS program volunteered their time to help ensure the success of the program. The curriculum focuses on speech and language skills, socialization skills and age-appropriate school readiness skills to prepare the children for the regular classroom. The school’s long-term goals are to reduce aggressive behavior and school failure when the children enter kindergarten and elementary school. Most important, parents and grandparents are encouraged to take an active role in the curricular and extracurricular school activities. The school operates from September to May.

According to the local board of education, the children who have participated in the preschool program are more successful upon entering the public school system than those who have not taken part in the Bright Beginnings program. The preschool has been so successful that the city of Andalusia recently donated a four-acre park to the housing authority to build another preschool to serve the remainder of the low-income youth living in the community. Nearby housing authorities have visited Andalusia to learn how to start their own preschool programs.

Before the Bright Beginnings program, there were no public preschools in Andalusia. Public housing children were being left behind even before starting public school. Now, not only have the graduates done better in school, but also the community has developed a more positive image of the public housing community as a result.

Contact: Martha Carter, Phone: (334) 222-5871
Tracking Number: 1282
Winning Category: Program (Public and Indian Housing)

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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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