City to build new center for early education, care

New Haven community leaders along with local, state and federal representatives gathered at the Timothy Dwight School Wednesday afternoon to officially announce the construction of a center for early education and care.

The Greater Dwight Development Corporation — a local organization representing Dwight community interests — raised more than $1 million for the newly-named Alvis Brooker Building, planned by the Yale Urban Design Workshop. Located near Edgewood and Orchard streets, the 8,244 square-foot building will house a school providing day care and education for children under six.

“It has not been easy, but there is strength in this community,” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said in a short speech. “We are working together for the younger generations.”

In his remarks, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. compared yesterday’s ceremony to two recent press conferences announcing the recruitment of Carlos Beltran for the Mets and Randy Johnson to the Yankees.

“Both brought a superstar player to make the team stronger,” DeStefano said. “Today we are having a conference with superstar leaders to make the community stronger.”

After the opening remarks, the speakers unveiled the building’s plaque, engraved with Brooker’s name. Brooker, a former New Haven alderman, focused his efforts on counseling adolescents with drug and alcohol problems. He also lectured on the criminal justice system in Connecticut public schools and universities, prior to his death in 1999 at the age of 33.

Sally Brooker, Alvis’s mother, said she is glad to see his life’s work memorialized.

“Education was my son’s first love,” Brooker said. “He was an educator at a very young age. Today, as I look at this crowd, I know my son would be happy.”

DeLauro added that she could not “imagine a more powerful testament to Alvis than this.”

The school received one of its larger donations, one of $350,000, from the New Alliance Bank, formerly New Haven Savings Bank. The bank chose the school as the recipient of its first official grant dedicated to community development.

“No project rang so true in helping out this community as this building,” Paul McCraven, a spokesman for the New Alliance Bank said.

State Sen. Toni Harp, whose own children went to a Montessori school, said current research has demonstrated the importance of early education. Montessori schools, located around the world, are based on an early education method promoting self-directed learning.

“Kids learn a lot faster at a young age than we’d originally thought,” Harp said. “The earlier they start, the more they learn.”

Research has also shown that early education has a significant impact on a child’s behavior later in life, DeStefano said.

“We see now that the kids who fail in high school are the ones who were failing in kindergarten,” DeStefano said.

DeLauro spoke about the need for more federal funding and gathering support for universal pre-school education.

“We know what makes our youngsters succeed,” DeLauro said. “Let us take the bold direction to say this is what we should be doing, this is where our principles should be.”

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