Half a century is an important milestone, and Main Street Child Development Center in Fairfax City celebrated its 50th anniversary, May 12, with a schoolwide event honoring the students, teachers, staff and community. Sure, there were serious speeches – but the occasion also featured balloons, singing children and lots of fun.
After the official ceremony, children and parents went outside to enjoy pizza and shaved-ice drinks and participate in several activities, including rock painting, making clay necklaces, getting sticker tattoos, coloring, magnetic fishing, face painting, playing with a parachute, going through an obstacle course and exploring a fire truck from Fairfax City’s Station 3.
In addition, parents could attend a resource fair showcasing local organizations serving the community. First, though, came some speeches and proclamations – plus an entertaining performance from some enthusiastic preschoolers.
“I’m so grateful to be part of an organization that has served its mission, the community, local families and their children for five decades,” said Main Street Board President Jeff Gander. “Main Street is an anchor of the Fairfax community and provides so much for so many.”
He noted that the school has “relentlessly” offered early childhood education, programs and support “to society’s most-valued demographic – young children.” And, he added, “For all of us who have children, you know that’s no easy feat.”
Open since 1973, Main Street Child Development Center provides affordable, quality childcare and early education for children from low-income families in Fairfax City and Fairfax County. And because it’s open from 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m., it also enables their parents to maintain full-time employment.
Some 80 percent of the children are from low-income families, 70 percent of these families speak English as a second language, and 50 percent of the children are from single-parent homes. Their teachers equip them with the critical school-readiness skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
Housed in the City’s Green Acres Community Center – a former elementary school – it offers preschool for children ages 2-5, and currently has an enrollment of 110. Main Street also provides a school-age program for children attending Daniels Run Elementary and includes before- and after-school care. It typically serves 25 children, in grades K through five, before and after school, all summer and on holidays.
It has a staff of 30 – mostly teachers, three mental-health support personnel and administrative staff. Main Street also prides itself on celebrating its diversity and commitment to inclusion, so each child’s needs are met and everyone feels seen and valued.
During the anniversary celebration, Gander had attendees applaud the teachers and staff. Calling them the school’s “real stars,” he said, “They show up every day and do heroic work to serve our children.” He also gave a special shout-out to longtime teacher, Vicky Mendoza.
“Miss Vicky has worked here for 30 years, and her former students still come back to see her and give her a hug,” said Gander. He then thanked the families and community “who do so much to support [Main Street] and make it feel like one, big, extended family,” as well as the board members, sponsors, local officials and others “who make the time, effort and financial commitments necessary to allow us to serve generations of children.”
Executive Director Carol Lieske said everyone at the school was excited and proud and had worked hard toward this anniversary celebration. “Main Street has made quite an impact,” she said. “During our first 50 years, we’ve educated and nurtured over 5,000 children and given supportive resources to the 15,000-20,000 people in their families.
“Because we’re a public/private partnership, we’ve been able to distribute school supplies, holiday gifts and food, plus gas and grocery gift cards. We’ve also provided mental-health services, and scholarships totaling in the millions and millions of dollars. We’ve served nearly 2 million meals and snacks – and perhaps, most importantly, we’ve given and received billions and billions of hugs.”
But, stressed Lieske, “We couldn’t have done it without our tremendous teachers and support staff, plus our volunteers, supporters, community organizations, local churches and GMU interns, all committed to our mission. As we enter the second half of our first century, we’re looking forward to continuing Main Street’s vision as a place where children are inspired to learn, encouraged to explore and empowered to achieve their fullest potential.”
Next, Fairfax Mayor Catherine Read addressed the crowd. “Main Street is an important part of our community and a real gem,” she said. “There’s nothing more important than early childhood education, and I wish universal pre-kindergarten was nationwide.”
She then read a proclamation from herself and the City Council commending the school for being a “great asset” and “delivering high-quality, early childhood education and support services to children and their families, regardless of financial circumstance, for 50 years.”
Then, noting that Fairfax County just added more money into its FY 24 budget for early childhood education, Supervisor James Walkinshaw (D-Braddock) also congratulated Main Street’s “dedicated teachers and staff” on the school’s 50th anniversary. “Thank you all,” he said. “A place like Main Street is a launching pad for the future generation of American leaders.”
He, too, presented a proclamation – this one, on behalf of the Board of Supervisors. Praising the school as a “pillar of the community” and a “shining example” of the impact pre-K education can have on a child’s life, it said Main Street “helped lay the foundation for countless children to achieve academic success, build strong social skills and become lifelong learners.”