By Amoni Hinton
On Leigh Avenue, in between the aging homes, housing construction sites, and un-level sidewalks, you stumble upon a two-story home that has more to it than meets the eye. As you walk up the faded yellow wooden steps, you enter into a land of opportunity for the next generation. Located in the John Witherspoon community—once the heart of the African American population in Princeton—is the Princeton Nursery School.
The school, which recently celebrated its 90th anniversary, is a resource for low-income families in need of daycare. From 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, children between the ages of 2 and a half to 5 years old are fed breakfast, lunch, and a snack.
Executive director Rosanda Wong has been leading the school for two years. During that time, she saved the nursery from possibly closing down, started a program that provides each child with hygiene necessities called Bubbles and Brushes, and began a program that allows students to take home meals for the weekends called Send Hunger Packing.
Wong continues to raise money to renovate the roof and playground and for any other possible needs for the children and the school. Wong said that even though all of the staff at the nursery are underpaid, they love their jobs. Their mission is to provide an exceptional preschool education and childcare for low-income families.
Not far from the Princeton Nursery School is another building that houses opportunities for young children. Head east on Leigh Avenue to Clay Street, and you’ll find the Henry Pannell Learning Center, which is supported and run by the YMCA’s Princeton Young Achievers Program.
The center provides after-school homework assistance, tutoring, and literacy support for children from kindergarten to 5th grade. Pannell prepares students for the next day in the classroom and gives them skills to expand their resources.
“All of the parents are thankful from the beginning,” said Leigh Zink, who has been working with the YMCA for 12 years and has tremendous experience dealing with children in low-income neighborhoods.
Running non-profit organizations like these are not for the faint of heart. They have to fight and go above and beyond in ways they never imagined. Even for families receiving assistance, parents need to work long hours, and children walk around in tattered clothing. The kids can suffer from depression and bullying.
“The more you can give them,” said Zink, “the more successful they can be.”