Just a few days ago the Moody Early Childhood Center celebrated its first anniversary. The cafeteria echoed with the music of the Galveston Community Band as little MECC students danced.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas’ mascot, Blue Bear, wandered the halls stopping so children could talk to him as parents snapped cellphone photos. Ball High BESST students served cookies, fruit and lemonade.

City council members Craig Brown, Amy Bly and Mike Doherty carried a proclamation and the good wishes of the city to the event. The Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce conducted a ribbon-cutting ceremony as MECC unveiled its latest addition to the campus, the gym converted into a gross motor skills lab with the BCBS of Texas-sponsored KABOOM imagination station play equipment.

At the same time, MECC recognized its yearlong partnership with UTMB‘s occupational therapy and physical therapy students and faculty who will use the new equipment in their work with students. It was a glorious celebration of a groundbreaking partnership!

The journey that has led Galveston into this one-of-a-kind educational experiment began several years ago when the Galveston Sustainable Community Alliance received the results of a study it had commissioned to assess early childhood education resources available on the Island.

No surprise in the results … there were only a few high quality centers with a limited number of spaces for infants and young toddlers, and very few of those spaces were financially accessible to families with lower incomes.

For the past several years, GISD has chosen to use local tax dollars to fund full-day pre-K for island 3- and 4-year-olds. (Texas only reimburses school districts for half-day PreK.) The trustees evidenced that they understood the critical importance of starting early to ensure that Island children enter kindergarten ready to learn.

Thus, when presented with the opportunity to partner with a private, nonprofit infant and toddler education program supported by a long-term commitment from The Moody Foundation and the potential of other private support, GISD board President Matt Hay spoke for his fellow trustees when he said, “Count GISD in!”

Put forward in January 2016, the proposal called for co-location of GISD’s public PreK3 program with a private, nonprofit infant and toddler program in a former GISD elementary school. Together, GISD and the private nonprofit would create a seamless, high quality program of early childhood education that would stretch from 6 weeks through 3 years old, all on the same campus.

The enrollment for the infant and toddler program would strive to reflect the socio-economic demographics of the public school district. This kind of public-private partnership had not been tried anywhere in Texas that we could find. Fast forward, seven months later, on Aug. 29, 2016, MECC opened its doors.

On behalf of MECC’s board of directors, board of advisers, staff, students and their families, I want to express profound gratitude to our supporters and partners for joining us on this journey and for believing that every Galveston child must and can be afforded the opportunity to soar.

Betty Massey is president of the board of directors of the Moody Early Childhood Center.

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