DENVER — Though children as young as 6 weeks old can come to Mile High Early Learning, the 50-year-old program is not a daycare. It is a school for kids like 3-year-old Karma Kosloff.
"She's beautiful. She's smart, loving, kind and a very brave girl. I love her," Hannah Kozloff, her mother, said.
Kozloff started bringing Karma to Mile High Early Learning when she was 7 months old.
"I love every stage of learning here from like the infant room to the toddler room to the pre-school," Kozloff said. "I mean they're in my heart forever."
Rubi Sanchez is a teacher working with infants to get them to start the learning process.
"The babies. They learn as we go. If we don't teach them, their development is really behind," Sanchez said.
This is a Montessori-inspired school, meaning that teachers like Sanchez want kids to learn how to problem solve and communicate on their own while discovering initiative. In addition to reading books and other interactions, Sanchez said having infants learn to eat independently is a big part of learning.
"So, we help them and teaching them how to grab a spoon. Obviously, they are gonna try to play, but even if it's better because their hands, they can feel the texture," Sanchez said.
Kozloff said Karma's development blossomed in the Infant Room.
"It really helped her refine her motor skills and get really good at holding spoons and being able to feed herself," Kozloff said.
Lolita Ray is the Chief Programming Officer for Mile High Early Learning. She works with five different locations around Denver which serve a lot of low-income kids.
"A lot of things our families run into is lack of resources," Ray said. "They have a lack of transportation, you know, so they're not bringing their kids. Some of them do not have that drive."
Ray said they're trying to change that. Teachers want to close an ongoing education gap between affluent families and the less fortunate by making sure all kids are ready for grade school.
"We're a comprehensive program. We support the family. We support their kids as well as their immediate family as a whole," Ray said.
Kozloff said she does feel supported.
"Just the resources that they have available for all the students here is tremendous and amazing," Kozloff said.
Mile High Early Learning wins the first-ever Succeeds Prize for Early Childhood Education, presented by PNC Bank.
"Yes, I am incredibly proud that we are the inaugural Early Childhood Program," Dr. Pamela Harris, president and CEO of Mile High Early Learning, said.
Dr. Harris said her teachers are agile. They are able to adjust to the evolving way of developing a child's brain for the challenges of the pandemic.
"The things that we decide to do are connected to making sure that we're cultivating our children's unique potential," Harris said.
Mile High Early Learning also has a dozen partnerships with other learning centers to train other early childhood educators in how to engage kids. Harris believes her program is setting the standard for Colorado.
"I take risks and I invite my staff to come along with me," Harris said.
She said one issue they are tackling is trying to fix race and equity issues when it comes to education. Harris hopes they are changing lives.
"I think that commitment has also really strengthened what it is that we do. It's been challenging. The work is ongoing," Harris said.
They care -- not a daycare.
"People think (we're a) daycare, but no we actually assess kids," Ray said.
The Succeeds Prize comes with a $15,000 cash prize and year-long support for sharing their story with other schools around the state. 9NEWS features one winner on the first Friday of each month throughout the school year.
"People are just working their butts off and I think just recognizing that is just really great for them," Kozloff said. "They deserve the world. They take care of my child."
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