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Recognizing that long-term benefits are gained from intervening early in the lives of children living in poverty, the centerpiece of ABC is high-quality early childhood education.

Young children in ABC’s preschools and early intervention programs thrive in classrooms that are alive with joyful songs, purposeful activities, brilliant colors and tender moments. There are corners to explore, mysteries to solve, books to discover, paint to splatter, drums to bang, steps to conquer and towers to build … and rebuild.

ABC Helps Make Big Dreams and High Hopes Come True

Each school has its own special focus, yet all are rooted in ABC’s commitment to the principle that every child is entitled to the best possible start – one that is full of happiness, accomplishment and love.

ABC’s schools celebrate children in all their exquisite diversity by appreciating their unique contributions, encouraging their optimum development, honoring their shared humanity and treasuring their infinite potential.

ABC’s unique approach extends well beyond the individual child to embrace the whole family by providing the supportive services that each family member needs. Parents are integral to their children’s success, treasured partners in all of ABC’s programs.

ABC's Educational  Programs Break the Cycle of Poverty & Neglect

Merricat's Castle School
In Merricat’s Castle School’s three beautiful and lively classrooms, preschoolers learn academic skills as well as the lessons of patience, kindness and caring. Typically developing children and children with special needs are cherished and grow together in a nurturing setting where the process of learning is an adventure in acquiring social, intellectual, emotional, creative and physical skills. A special education staff coordinates medical, psychological and language services, and families enjoy parent workshops, counseling and a close involvement in the life of the Merricat’s community.

A beautiful new playground encourages children to enjoy safe, outdoor play throughout the school year. ABC’s Merricat’s Castle first broke new ground for disabled children by successfully advocating in the courts for a mainstreaming policy that would fund the inclusion of children with special needs in preschool programs. And by also championing its inclusive paradigm, Merricat’s has become the national model for preschool inclusion. The combined success of its advocacy and its design has paved the way for widespread change.  115 children are enrolled in the 2008 academic year.

Cassidy's Place
At Cassidy’s Place, named for Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford’s daughter, 120 preschoolers who live in poverty and suffer from severe disabilities, serious medical problems and have significant special needs develop, play and learn in nine dynamic and inviting classrooms.

Children, who might otherwise be unable to attend school, enjoy an enriched curriculum and the special therapies that help them achieve their highest potential.

Blending Head Start, preschool special education and Universal Pre-Kindergarten, Cassidy’s Place provides a full day that is further augmented with comprehensive and seamlessly integrated support services for each child and each family member.

A glorious backyard playground affords the children daily opportunities for outdoor play. Through ABC’s Parent Council, parents are directly involved in their children’s education.

Parents also participate in parent-child activities, discussion groups and skills workshops and take a leadership role at this very special preschool.

Interview with Kathy Lee Gifford (PDF)

Variety Cody Gifford House

Variety Cody Gifford House - Early Childhood Developement at ABC

Named for Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford’s son, Variety Cody Gifford House focuses its early intervention on infants and toddlers who live in poverty and struggle with severe developmental disabilities and delays and serious medical conditions.

34 Children from birth to three receive special educational and developmental therapies as they play and flourish in beautifully and vibrantly appointed classrooms and therapy rooms. Variety Cody Gifford House serves infants and toddlers with developmental, educational, physical, medical and behavioral disabilities including but not limited to: pervasive developmental disorders, autism, cerebral palsy, downs syndrome, seizure disorder, hydrocephalus, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, kidney disease, cerebral and peripheral nervous system disorders, central nervous system disorders, central nervous system damage, brain lesions, hearing and vision impairment, cancer, sickle cell anemia, HIV/AIDS and spina bifida. Half of all the children in the program have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

The lessons and impact of the classrooms are also brought directly into the home through home-based early intervention services which are offered to 65 families in the community.

Behind this charming brownstone is a serene haven for families and a beautiful new playspace for children, The Heckscher/Friends Seminary Playground.

Here also, a memorial garden honors ABC’s children.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony (Video)

Interview with Kathy Lee Gifford (PDF)

ABC's Keith Haring School The Keith Haring School
The Keith Haring School is located at ABC’s Supportive Housing Program for homeless families with HIV and AIDS. Adorned with Keith Haring’s colorful and joyous silhouettes, it is a stimulating Head Start program for the residents’ young children as well as for children from the community.

Head Start at Keith Haring SchoolKeith Haring’s classroom is organized into inviting activity centers that promote learning and readiness skills and, through dramatic play using puppets, literature and multi-sensory activities, the curriculum also addresses the emotional impact of loss. A close collaboration among parents, teachers and social workers enhances the effectiveness of the program. 10 children are enrolled.

Echo Park Early Childhood Center:
Cutie Patootie and The Graham School
The Cutie Patootie Early Childhood Center and The Stephen & Cathy Graham School are located at Echo Park, ABC’s multi-service center for children and families. Here, four classrooms have been expanded to eight, increasing substantially the number of children to 129. Both early childhood education programs gain greatly from the comprehensive array of services that are available on-site and can “wrap around” to strengthen each child’s family. They include a children’s mental health clinic, an after school and weekend educational, recreational and mentoring program, preventive services, therapeutic groups for children in crisis, parent support groups and employment assistance.

Cutie Patootie Early Childhood Center at Echo ParkThe Cutie Patootie Early Childhood Center serves infants, toddlers and preschoolers who play, learn and delight in beautiful classrooms that reflect the vigor and promise of its young students. Healthy, delicious meals and snacks are prepared daily. A comfortable and well stocked young children’s library and reading room and a technology center further augment the curriculum, and Bunny’s Playground will ensure the children a safe and exhilarating space to play. Home-based Head Start brings the philosophy and practices of the classroom to families in the community.

Home Based Head Start Prgram at the Stephen & Cathy Graham School

The Stephen & Cathy Graham School is an enriched, inclusionary early childhood education program dedicated to serving homeless and especially vulnerable infants and young children in East Harlem. It offers a safe, stable and caring environment and the carefully individualized education programs that are designed to meet each child’s special needs. A large Universal Pre-Kindergarten program is provided for four year old children.

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Updated July 28, 2014