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August 2023

COC members help save Red Balloon preschool for West Harlem families

By Color Of Change staff

When the parents of children at the Red Balloon Early Childhood Learning Center learned last fall that Columbia University planned to shut down the center in West Harlem, they turned to Color Of Change for help.

COC, one of the nation’s foremost racial justice organizations with a successful track record in fighting for a more human and just world, used its extensive network and online platform in working with the Red Balloon parents and others to pressure the university to preserve the center that provides affordable, high-quality care to children from racially and socioeconomically diverse families.

More than half of the families receive need-based tuition and one of every six or seven youngsters receives special education services. The center also has trained staff to care for children with a variety of disabilities.

So Columbia University’s plan to shutter the center and discontinue the services struck a blow with the parents. COC worked with parents under the leadership of Parent Board President Annapurna Schreiber to fight back. COC launched an email campaign to pressure Columbia’s president to keep the center open. COC also directed an OrganizeFor petition drive demanding that the university keep the center open and increase its funding support. The petition bearing more than 15,000 signatures was delivered in March to university administrators during a rally and protest supported by Columbia students and community members.


The result: A victory for the Red Balloon children and families.

Dr. Dennis A. Mitchell, the university’s provost, recently announced that the Red Balloon space will be renovated, with additional financial support and resources provided by the university.

Parents and COC lauded the victory.

“The university’s commitments to renewing a more powerful and more prepared future for the child care center proves that when we gather as a community of advocates, we can make real change,” said Kyle Bibby, COC’s senior campaign director. “Color Of Change celebrates this decision by Columbia’s leadership and will continue to hold the university and other institutions accountable for their commitments to include and equitable child care for all families.”

The victory is a testament to COC’s effectiveness in collaborating with community stakeholders and others to bring about positive change. You can help power COC’s ongoing work to tackle the child care crisis and other challenges facing Black and working-class families. Donate today. Your support will help COC continue its efforts to empower people and communities to create a better, more just and human world.

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