Nonprofit Partner: Hobe Sound Early Learning Center
Open doors for all: Founded in 1962, the center serves families in Palm Beach and Martin Counties; last year about 65% of its 200+ students received tuition assistance.
2023 Community Impact Grant: Supports an upgraded fencing and a key-card badge system that will allow for a panic button to lock-down the entire school and notifies law enforcement precisely where a serious security problem exists on school grounds for a faster response.
For generations, teachers at the Hobe Sound Early Learning Center have equipped young children to become life-long learners. Today, they also teach the kids how to stay safe in a world tinged by gun violence.
School officials must make hiding from a gunman as routine as hearing a fire alarm. “A child hears a fire drill, they know where to go, where to line up and how to proceed,” said Ashley Azzi, the center’s director. “And, unfortunately, that’s something that we have to normalize with the active shooter training as well.”
It could be the difference between life and death for these young learners.
“You have to have the children comfortable with that because you’re going to cram them in rooms that get locked down. They get crammed into the back bathroom or a hidden area,” said Kiersten Alberto, the center manager. “If those children are not used to that and panicking, that alerts the intruder to where they’re at.”
In addition to the training, the center turned to the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties to upgrade its security system to address this modern-day scourge.
“We realized that we need to protect our children and our staff,” she said. “The Community Foundation and their donors were very generous in helping us out.”
For the families, young learners and staff, the added security measures help them focus on their mission: instilling a love of learning. That peace of mind allows the teachers and center officials to continue having life-long educational impacts.
“Research shows that about 90% of students with early learning experiences like ours go on to graduate high school with fewer behavioral problems,” says Azzi. “That’s really our purpose — to set these kids on a strong, safe path so they can not only start ahead, but stay ahead.”