Seattle Mayor and DEEL Celebrate First Week of Preschool at Voices of Tomorrow’s Dual Language Classrooms

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The photo from left: Mayor Bruce Harrell, Zamzam Mohamed, Iftin Hagi Mohamed, Leilani Dela Cruz, Early Learning Division Director of DEEL, and far right Dwane Chapelle, the Director of DEEL. Photo credit: City of Seattle 

By Runta News Staff

SEATTLE (September 15, 2023) – Mayor Harrell joined by Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning Directors celebrated yesterday the first week of the 2023-2024 Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) school year at Voices of Tomorrow’s Seattle site. The mayor was welcomed and given a tour at SPP dual language Somali classrooms by VOT’s Chief Executive Officer Zamzam Mohamed, and Chief Financial Officer Iftin Haji Mohamed.

During the tour, the mayor addressed a small crowd of teachers, parents, and ethnic media outlets, mainly Runta News and Converge Media, detailing the city’s policy toward empowering community of color to sustain their culture and language. Both Mayor Harrell, and DEEL’s Director Dwane Chapelle who was the lead organizer of this visit promised to continue investing in such programs which they described will enhance young children’s educational achievement throughout their journey to college and beyond.

Dual language early learning programs are an important component in providing culturally responsive programming. It is part of the Seattle Preschool Program which consistently serves BIPOC children, and its key strategy is building high quality learning environment that contributes to equity.   DEEL launched the SPP Dual Language Initiative in 2020 to standardize dual language preschool and provide training and support for SPP teachers and programs who provide it. SPP classrooms are open to all Seattle children, and are available in 22 classrooms across the city in American Sign Language, Amharic, Cantonese, French, Mandarin, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

Why Dual Language Preschool Matters: Research shows dual language classrooms contribute to developing language skills and cultural competence for all young learners, especially dual language learners who speak a heritage language in the home such as Somali. Research indicates that bilingual children are cognitively, academically, intellectually, socially, and verbally more advanced than monolingual children.

Voices of Tomorrow works to break the cycle of educational disparity and create better future for East African children. They also advocate for our communities and at the same time prepare future advocates for the community and family needs.

VOT has become a hub and refuge for many families with children. Some of the programs they offer include English/Somali Dual Language Preschool which is the first of its kind offered in the United States, Family Childcare, and Technical Assistance and Advocacy Trainings for Parents and Members alike.

Its strategies for 2024 include to eliminate or severely reduce the early learning disparities for immigrant and refugee children in King County, expand dual-language Somali/English early learning programs throughout King County, create culturally responsive tools to inform best practices, and have representation at all spaces where children are the center-focus.

Seattle Preschool Program enrollment for the 2023-2024 school year is now open, and will remain open through March 2024. The program offers many options for families to choose from, including full day care and inclusive classrooms for children with individualized education plans, and most families qualify for free or highly reduced tuition. Parents can learn more and apply at www.seattle.gov/applyspp, email www.preschool@seattle.gov or call 206-386-1050. Applications are available in multiple languages, and in-language support is available to guide parents through the application process.