Federation Early Learning Services will honor Lt. Gov. Mike Stack on June 8 during its 27th annual Love Our Kids Gala at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue.
Lt. Gov. Mike Stack wants to make Pennsylvania the best that it can be, and that starts at the ground level: early childhood development.
For his commitment to said issue, Federation Early Learning Services (FELS) will honor Stack on June 8 during its 27th annual Love Our Kids Gala at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue.
The inaugural FELS Champion for Children Award will be presented to community figures, such as Stack.
FELS Senior Vice President Fredda Satinsky said Stack is an incredible friend to FELS, having worked with the organization for more than 15 years, starting when he was a state senator.
He’s represented two of FELS’ larger centers during his time in the Senate, the Paley and Lassin Early Learning Centers in Northeast Philadelphia, which have enrollments of 224 and 124 during the school year, respectively.
“[Stack] has always been totally open to visiting the center and doing events with the kids and the parents and supporting causes of early childhood education that we have brought to him,” she said. “Child care has been working very hard for many, many, many years to get the message out that quality childhood education is important, and Mike accepted and believed in that message years ago.”
He hasn’t missed an opportunity, either. He’s attended some of their festive events — Satinsky estimated at least two a year — such as the Passover story kids acted out. Stack, who is not Jewish, was given the spontaneous role to part the Red Sea.
He’s also participated in Read Across America Day, where he read Dr. Seuss books to children adorned in the infamous Cat in the Hat’s red and white topper.
“He is one of the most attentive people that I’ve met as a public figure, whether he’s with the kids without parents, with parents, with teachers. He just really gives 100 percent of himself when he’s engaged with people,” she said.
At FELS, Satinsky said they reach out to legislative representatives regularly to make them aware of the organization and also emphasize the need for better funded education.
“He hasn’t missed an opportunity to champion that message with his colleagues in the state Senate, and certainly now that he’s lieutenant governor, he and [Gov. Tom Wolf] are totally in sync with that,” she added.
Stack’s Senate office was closest to their biggest center, Paley, and sometimes the kids walked over with their teacher for special occasions or to show support for a certain initiative in child care.
The award is given to “someone who has really gone above and beyond to champion high-quality early childhood education,” she said. “We’re convinced that it is a cornerstone of every child’s development. They have to get what is needed so that they can go to school ready to succeed.”
Satinsky said Stack has described FELS as family, and the feeling is certainly mutual.
As such, he said he is thrilled to be honored.
“I’ve always had a special connection and mostly because they stand up for the children, and that’s what I like to do too,” he said. “We’ve been great partners over the years and some of the [most fun] times I’ve ever had in life has been visiting the Paley and Lassin Centers and seeing the kids.”
He recalled participating in another show with the kids: the story of Noah’s ark.
“They really play such a vital part of molding children into the kind of people that are going to make Pennsylvania all it can be,” he added. “These little kids come from every ethnic and racial background, and these children know no bounds, no separation, no bias. All they see is another little kid, and I always learned from the children how we’re all supposed to be as human beings.”
Although FELS is able to secure programming through private fundraising, Stack also helps out greatly by securing grants, which usually comes at the right time “where we’re able to put things over the goal line.”
“The most that I’ve tried to do is contribute my time to come and see the great things that they’re doing, and then try and help them find ways to pay for the programs that they have,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve been able to secure grants through the Department of Community and Economic Development to fund some really great programs and great infrastructure investment.”
Studies have shown that when kids get off to a good start in their education well before kindergarten, they tend to be better students wherever they go to school later on. They don’t have the same kind of learning struggles, they’re self-motivated and they’re used to structure.
“If you look at a lot of the problems we have in education,” Stack continued, “if we invest early on in children, I think we’re not going to have those same expensive problems that you have later.”
It’s like a pay-me-now versus pay-me-later situation: Investing in early childhood education now will result in spending less down the road.
“The teachers, the parents, the administrators at FELS are doing this day in and day out,” he acknowledged. “And then I get to come in and help them with what I consider a really small amount compared to what they do all the time, and then we get it done.”