Perea Preschool, funded by Church Health, a local non-profit healthcare organization, enrolls 160 three and four-year-old students. The school utilizes a whole-child curriculum, which addresses not only a child’s academic but also social, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs, and recognizes the important role of family and environment. Nutrition is a key component of the curriculum. Students are encouraged through explanations and play to explore, taste, and love wholesome food.

Principal Alicia Norman explains the preschool’s whole-child philosophy and how, when a student’s family is at or below the poverty level and struggling to meet basic needs, the child often experiences trauma that gets in the way of that child doing his or her best. Therefore, caring for families of students becomes important in order to give children optimal learning experiences.

Parent Liaison Amy Pearson describes the effect hunger or malnourishment can have on a child’s learning. She tells us that Perea recently opened a food pantry to replace an earlier program in which food for the weekend was selected, boxed and sent home on Fridays to those families most in need. The food pantry offers more dignity since it is open to all families and allows parents to make their own choices. Fresh produce is delivered weekly during growing season by Bring It Food Hub, a program of the food collective, Memphis Tilth. Parents and children enjoy picking out vegetables and fruits to take home along with information about and recipes for their choices.

These two passionate school leaders live out their belief every day that every person is a child of God and entitled to loving care and respect. Mrs. Alicia tells us that she grew up in a below-poverty-level family. She says she didn’t know how poor they were until she went to college, where she realized the opportunity she had to make a difference. She chose Perea for her own daughter, and her wish for every child is that they are able to be successful and go to college like she and her daughter did. Mrs. Amy ends with sharing that she considers each child as her own, indeed that every child belongs to all of us. Thank you, Perea Preschool, for taking such loving care of our children.