With the scholastic year in progress, many parents of children in low-income areas have found themselves disillusioned with the lack of quality education, support, resources, and extracurricular programs available to them. However, for parents in Southwest Philadelphia, there is a new option, the Leaders & Legends Preschool and Performing Arts Academy.
Launched by Tiffany Ford, a respected entrepreneur, educator, and school owner, this alternative to elementary education exposes young children to creative and performing arts with a cutting-edge, modern facility fully aligned with state requirements and assessments.
“Students are getting cognitive learning, social skills, music and movement, but then on top of that, they are getting traditional dance training, drama training and vocal training,” said Ford. “We are starting as early as three years old. The demographic is low-income families who want something more for their children.”
Ford understands how critical creative arts, stability, and safe spaces are to early childhood learning and development, and her mindset has always been to be solution-oriented. A native of Southwest Philadelphia, she experienced what many inner-city youths on the south side of Philadelphia experienced – gun violence in her neighborhood, as well as domestic and drug abuse in and outside of the home. For her, the arts created a much-needed escape and helped her to perform in school. She danced for many years and participated in oratorical competitions.
Philadelphia has long been dealing with a public school landscape marred by outdated and unsatisfactory conditions, high teacher and staff turnover, and poor academic achievement.
Studies show that 40% of assessed schools within the Philadelphia School District exhibited conditions deemed “unsatisfactory.” According to The School Progress Report on Education and Equality, only 34% of 3rd to 8th-grade students met English standards in 2022, and an abysmal 17% met math standards. Much of this has to do with poor learning environments, which only exacerbate the trauma young boys and girls may be experiencing outside of the classroom.
At Leaders & Legends Preschool and Performing Arts Academy, science, math, and reading are prioritized, as are many opportunities for socialization, play, and hands-on learning. Committed teachers and a dedicated staff are experienced in creative arts and early childhood education. Additionally, they work diligently to build relationships with students and ensure positive interactions.
“Our approach to education helps to spark self-discipline, self-regulation skills and self-control. These qualities they learn transfer over into the classroom,” Ford said. “Also, you get to find out what the kids’ abilities, strengths and interests are at an early age, so that when they are a little older you can see what discipline they wish to focus on when they are in the arts.”
Ford also wants to provide solutions to parents and give them the support they need. Unlike at most area schools, parents can avoid the financial strain and scheduling conflicts associated with after-school programs and extracurricular activities for their kids. Not to mention, parents also have safety concerns, as gun violence and school safety remain issues of concern in Philadelphia.
“A lot of the parents love what we offer because we are accepting subsidies, so it is more acceptable to them,” she said. “A lot of low-income parents can’t afford programs like this, but now that they are able to get it with subsidized funding, they can use it. They don’t have to go to the dance schools on the weekend or after school when they are struggling with getting to and from work. It is like a one stop shop.”
Children as young as three years old can enroll. Once they age out of the program, they can enroll in the Leaders and Legends Performing Arts Academy, which has been operating since 2014 and is geared toward youth from ages 6 to 17.
For more information on Leaders & Legends Preschool and Performing Arts Academy, visit their website.