By Betty Karnette
Back in the 1960s, a professor at CSULB, Dr. Gerhard Kohn, and his wife, Irena, saw the need in our community for childcare among low-income families– child care that would not only respond to the basic needs of babies and preschoolers but would also help them grow both physically and mentally into self-confident, capable, happy young students and adults. This dream meant having trained teachers, aides, and especially supportive community leaders working for and with an organization whose mission is “to provide quality childcare and preschool programs to children of low-income families in Long Beach in a caring, loving and learning environment.”
The organization is called, appropriately, Young Horizons– now with seven locations in Long Beach with the following services being provided: an infant/toddler program; preschool full and part-day services; full and part-day childcare services. The purposes are to provide for the care and education of young children, provide parents with the resources they need to help them in their role as parents, and provide quality caregivers who are well trained, warm, and caring.
The Ludloff Center at 2650 Pacific Avenue in Long Beach is an excellent example of a group of people following through with mission and purposes. The classrooms are colorful and inviting, and the teachers and aides make you feel good as you watch them working with the children. Site administrator Elia Kolp’s warm countenance invites you in and immediately makes you feel that you’d like to stay there and just be yourself.
Feven Afewerki, teacher and assistant supervisor in her beautiful, blue, long dress speaks to the children and one can tell they understand her. They don’t know she has a master’s degree, but they know she knows what she’s doing when she gives them ideas for new ways to “stack” varied block sizes.
Playing on the tire swing is an activity that’s even enticing to adults. There’s a feeling of freedom and abandonment as you watch young ones sailing through space on a tire. Comfortable benches and open spaces for adults allow families to learn new parenting techniques by watching and talking informally with teachers, administrators, and aides.
Among the many subjects discussed with the families who must live and/or work in the Long Beach area and be on the Los Angeles Centralized Eligibility List (LACEL), are nutrition, exercise, rest, health, and safety.
The pleasant surroundings with happy young people adds to the thrill of learning new things. The aides are usually college students with plans to continue to work in the child-development arena. Everyone is motivated in this friendly, colorful environment.
The playground has space for “artists” to work on their very own creations along with huge slides that look like friendly animals. The “roadway” for the cycles is always busy, and safe racing is common. Even if the participants are a bit young for reading, there are numerous books to discover that lead to avid interest. Some of the pictures give the children ideas as to how to dress in the “costumes” that are available in the playroom. If I were a young child, I think I’d really love the Ludloff Young Horizon Center.
Betty Karnette is a Wrigley resident and former state senator and assemblymember.