WILMINGTON — Faculty and staff at Stubbs Early Education Center welcomed more than 200 kindergarten students for their first day of school in a celebratory fashion on Wednesday morning. Some parents had tears in their eyes as they dropped off their children, but many community leaders were ready to cheer them on as they walked down the “red carpet” through the front doors.
The leaders invited to take part were all men from various organizations. Principal Dr. Whitney Williams said they wanted to make sure that fathers were represented in the families in their community.
“The men here represent stability in many ways,” she said. “They can bring togetherness and support for all of the children and that’s what we wanted to have happen here today.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.3 million children — 1 in 4 — live without a biological, step- or adoptive father in the home. The National Fatherhood Initiative says homes with absent fathers can lead to a host of social issues including a greater risk of poverty and child abuse in the home, as well as behavioral and health problems for children.
Evan Smith is an educational consultant at Stubbs who said the welcome event is also a motivator for fathers to show up and support their kids going to school.
“We have a lot of uncles and cousins that step in to fill those spots if that father’s presence is not there, but we have a surprising amount of fathers that are present,” he said.
The NFI also says that children without an active father figure are twice as likely to drop out of high school.
William Stansbury is a member of the Prince Hall Masons, the largest group of Masons of African origin in the world. He said the Masons, who were all dressed in black-tie attire, came to represent positivity and commitment to the community.
“We want (the kids) to start off the year and see some positive men, positive influences,” Mr. Stansbury said. “I actually went to school here 50 years ago. I was born and raised in this community so (I wanted to take) the opportunity to come back and see the product of being positive.”
The school has held a welcome event each year since its opening in 2019. Stubbs conducted some online learning during the pandemic, but Dr. Williams said the faculty and staff have kept their focus on the kids.
“We had some hybrid models and our teachers, in their magnificent ways, were able to manage both,” she said.
Mom of two Gia Winchester walked her oldest daughter into school for her first day of kindergarten on Wednesday. Her second child will start preschool next week at Stubbs.
“It’s really, really nice how the whole staff and everyone came out and did the red carpet to welcome the students and you get to meet everybody right up front,” Ms. Winchester said.
She said that her daughter “melted down” a little when it was time to part ways, but overall her kids are happy to be in school, and Ms. Winchester is excited for them as well.
“COVID-19 is something that we all have to work together to try and maintain,” she said. “It is a big concern but all I can do is hope that the school continues to practice safe precautions.”
Stubbs emphasizes education for the whole family in a safe, secure and comfortable environment. The Dual Generation Center, which provides adult education and services like utility and housing assistance, along with the Early Education Center, are designed to create opportunities for children and adults to join together and advance educational experiences intended to promote academic learning and families’ overall well-being.
Summer programming from the United Way of Delaware aims to target that goal as well.
“We all know the impact that COVID-19 has had on families,” said Kenyatta Livington, director for United Way’s “Get Delaware Reading” Wilmington program. “So what we want to do is make sure that parents and the community know that the schools are centralized locations for resources that take care of the whole family.”
One program from the partnership is the 21st Century Community Learning Center After School Program, which provides after school and summer programming to students and families.
Mr. Livington was one of the community leaders in line to high-five kids as they walked down the red carpet. Next to him was Donovan “Monty” Alderman, owner of Monty’s Neighborhood Snacks, a small family-owned baked goods business. Their mission is to provide survival, life, education and employment skills through community service. Mr. Alderman led cooking classes as part of the 21st CCLC program.
“I’ll show kids how to make a quiche, scrambled eggs, deviled eggs, different things that you can do all with a carton of eggs,” he said. “Let’s say you’re 13 or so and having a hard week, you can come home and figure out how to make something for yourself to eat.”
Mr. Alderman said cooking incorporates other soft skills important for kids to learn.
“It’s easy to incorporate things like teamwork and time management in cooking lessons,” he said. “We try to incorporate these skills that kids are lacking because they’re on social media and on their phones all the time.”
Parents can go online to register their kids for kindergarten, prekindergarten and preschool at Stubbs Early Education Center. The Christina School District offers School Choice for students who wish to attend a school within the district, even if they don’t live within that school’s boundaries.