Milwaukee– The ThriveOn Collaboration is doubling down on its commitment to expand access to quality early childhood education through investments that will support neighborhood providers and add significant, new services needed in the community.
Responding to considerable gaps in early care and education services identified through resident input and local research, the Collaboration plans to mobilize $5 million over five years to invest in the facilities and practices of current providers in the Harambee, Halyard Park and Brewers Hill neighborhoods. Additionally, the Collaboration has selected a flagship provider – Malaika Early Learning Center – to operate a new center in its ThriveOn King building. Together, these mutually reinforcing efforts will expand the number seats available to families in these predominantly Black and Brown communities, support quality and better prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond.
“We heard early and often from residents that having quality, affordable options for early childhood education is a pressing need,” said Kathryn Dunn, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “Our approach, all the while, is to be additive to the neighborhoods while supporting the assets and talent already here. This plan offers dual benefit – partnering with a model provider to bring more high-quality seats to the King Drive area for our littlest learners while investing heavily in those already serving the community to enhance quality and access across the board.”
Led by the Foundation, the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and Royal Capital, the ThriveOn Collaboration addresses community-identified priorities to support an equitable, healthy and thriving Milwaukee for all, including early childhood education, which is a building block for health and well-being. ThriveOn King, 2153 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., is the Collaboration’s future physical home. When complete, the site will include community gathering and programmatic space, residential units for seniors and families, key MCW centers and institutes, the Foundation’s new headquarters, and this new early childhood education center.
Strengthening the early childhood care and education sector broadly and supporting providers and families in the neighborhoods associated with the ThriveOn Collaboration specifically are focal areas for Foundation investment as well as campaign priorities within its Greater Together Campaign, launched earlier this year. Through the campaign, the Foundation invites philanthropic partnership to further grow private support for early childhood care and education.
The Foundation’s commitments to the sector are fully aligned with the coalition building and community-centered work Milwaukee Succeeds is leading to expand access to quality, affordable early childhood care and education for Black and Brown families throughout the city.
New resources for established providers
The Collaboration’s support for existing providers in Harambee, Halyard Park and Brewers Hill will feature a $5 million program focused on facilities improvements and cohort-based learning.
Informed by research and provider-identified priorities, the program will provide capital to address deferred maintenance and improve facilities for enhanced program quality and capacity. Grant support will be paired with technical assistance related to design, construction, real estate and finance that providers may need to achieve their projects.
Also incorporated in the program is a learning community for early care and education providers to develop relationships with one another, share knowledge, problem-solve and benefit from the expertise of national and local experts to advance their programs and services.
Adding to the neighborhood from within
The Collaboration is also thrilled to announce that Malaika Early Learning Center, a trusted, 5-star rated early childhood education provider established in the Harambee neighborhood, will expand to a second site occupying nearly 14,000 square feet on the first floor of the ThriveOn King building.
Malaika’s selection to join the Collaboration followed an extensive evaluation process. A final recommendation came from the Collaboration’s Early Childhood Education Workgroup, whose membership includes resident representation, providers and other community organizations who support the sector. Malaika was chosen based on its strong leadership, its level of family involvement and community engagement, its representation in the sector and in the community at large, its exemplary reputation for quality care and its alignment with the ThriveOn Collaboration vision.
“The ThriveOn King opportunity allows Malaika to level up its efforts to ensure children are great by the age of eight, or ‘Great By 8’,” said Tamara Johnson, executive director of Malaika Early Learning Center. “Early care and education tends to be the missing piece of the puzzle in thriving community efforts. Malaika is proud to be part of this collaborative effort to provide a prosperous and equitable community for all.”
The new center will offer comprehensive programs aligning with the K-12 education system. An estimated 78 seats will be available for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. The center will offer subsidized care and private pay tuition options, with services expected to be launched in phases.
Transformational impact where it’s needed most
Early childhood care and education has a tremendous impact on a child’s development and future success. The sector also is a critical economic driver as it enables parents of young children to participate in the workforce.
Despite its importance, far too many children in Milwaukee lack access to the high-quality, affordable early childhood care and education they and their families need, as evidenced by a comprehensive study commissioned by the Foundation in 2019 and follow-up research focused specifically on access in the ThriveOn neighborhoods. These challenges have been additionally strained by the pandemic, further compelling the Collaboration’s commitments.
“Investment in early childhood education needs is just one part of a comprehensive commitment to the Harambee, Brewers Hill and Halyard Park neighborhoods,” said Greg Wesley, senior vice president, strategic alliances and business development, for MCW. “This step supports the Collaboration’s whole-community approach to well-being, beginning with support for our littlest ones and the families who raise them.”
About the Greater Milwaukee Foundation
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is Wisconsin’s largest community foundation and was among the first established in the world. For more than a century, the Foundation has been at the heart of the civic community, helping donors achieve the greatest philanthropic impact, elevating the work of changemakers across neighborhoods, and bringing people and organizations together to help our region thrive. Racial equity is the Foundation’s North Star, guiding its investments and strategies for social and economic change. Leveraging generations of community knowledge, cross-sector partnerships and more than $1 billion in financial assets, the Foundation is committed to reimagining philanthropy, re-centering communities and remaking systems to transform our region into a Milwaukee for all.
About the Medical College of Wisconsin
With a history dating back to 1893, the Medical College of Wisconsin is dedicated to leadership and excellence in education, patient care, research and community engagement. More than 1,500 students are enrolled in MCW’s medical school and graduate school programs in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Central Wisconsin. MCW’s School of Pharmacy opened in 2017. A major national research center, MCW is the largest research institution in the Milwaukee metro area and second largest in Wisconsin. In the last ten years, faculty received more than $1.5 billion in external support for research, teaching, training and related purposes. This total includes highly competitive research and training awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Annually, MCW faculty direct or collaborate on more than 3,100 research studies, including clinical trials. Additionally, more than 1,650 physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, provide care in virtually every specialty of medicine for more than 2.8 million patients annually.
About Royal Capital
At Royal Capital, having the opportunity to serve its communities in such an intimate and catalytic manner, is a privilege that it carries with high appreciation. From housing, retail, philanthropy, and community services, the people of Royal Capital are grateful for the opportunity to provide quality experiences that stretch beyond bricks and mortar. With a disciplined strategy and intentional execution, its efforts have led to the development of quality sustainable communities, while achieving the double bottom line for its investors and partners. The employees of Royal Capital are proud to be considered leaders in urban development, and we maintain our excitement to build, create, and be afforded the opportunity to “color outside the box.”