Alice Ao, Gwinnett Magazine Intern
Take a moment and conjure up an image of Lola, your average four-year-old. Wide brown eyes, a head full of bouncy curls, and a wide gap between two sets of pearly white teeth that seem to stretch on for miles.
With years of experience and memories ahead of her, it seems that Lola has a wide range of opportunities awaiting her. It seems that she has all the time in the world to shape her future to her deepest desires. But not quite.
At four years old, Lola spends most of her time at home. Her mornings are filled with sticky sundaes and flashing television screens instead of puzzles at preschool and playdates with friends. Rubber rain boots and candy wrappers line her walls instead of bookshelves and board games.
Lola will never hold a picture book in her tiny fists and drink in the glossy images until she steps foot in a kindergarten classroom. Lola will never know the shapes of letters or numbers until she sits down for a lesson with her elementary school teacher. And by then, it'll be too late.
Without early education, Lola will fall behind.
Lola will struggle through the first years of her education without a head start. She'll be told that she's not as "smart" or as "gifted" as other students. After a few years, Lola will start losing hope. She'll let her grades flounder as the will to care is slowly but surely siphoned out of her. She'll lose sight of her dreams and simply give up.
Throughout the United States, a country of promise and progress, there are thousands of children like Lola. Children whose parents are struggling to make ends meet and scrounge up the funds for a preschool education. Children who are denied a basic right to early learning based on their socioeconomic status. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the majority of households making less than $20,000 a year cannot afford to send their children to preschool - a statistic that has major ramifications. Children like Lola are more likely to lose focus in their studies, drop out, commit crimes, smoke cigarettes, and work minimum wage jobs. They're more likely to be unable to pay for their own children's preschool educations, creating a system in which the wealthy rise ahead academically and professionally while leaving the poor behind, a cycle perpetuated by wide discrepancies in early education.
While free programs like Head Start do provide preschool experiences to many children of low-income households, they lack the funds and size to serve every child in need. It is up to us, with our petitions and our votes and our voices, to advocate for free early education for every young child in our nation. It is up to us to write to our legislators and officials, calling for more funding for public preschools. It is up to us to ensure that every young child receives an equal early education and opportunities for future successes.