Our timeline

//Our timeline

Our timeline

United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education
Our journey to improve the lives of all children through high-quality early care and education

Since 2007, together with many early education partners, we:

  • Influenced the lives of 36,040 young children.
  • Improved the skills of 24,789 professionals.
  • Provided quality enhancement services to 2,794 early education programs.

January 2007

Center open its doors

The United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education officially opens its doors on January 8, 2007 with the mission of elevating the quality of early education for all children in Miami-Dade and beyond.

April 2007

Center welcomes national and international groups

The Center welcomes a delegation from Haiti — one of more than 520 groups from 23 states and 20 countries to visit the Center since its opening – expanding our reach far beyond the Center’s walls.

May 2007

Demonstration School graduates its first class

The Demonstration School graduates its first class. To this date, the School has transitioned 267 young children to kindergarten.

July 2007

Elevating the skills of early childhood educators

The Center receives a grant from the Early Learning Coalition (ELC) to provide professional learning.  The grant has helped train more than 4,600 teachers who in turn have impacted tens of thousands of young children.

September 2007

Center launches an administrator’s institute

The Center launches the Early Childhood Program Administrators Institute (ECPAI), in partnership with Miami Dade College. This program continues to this date and has elevated the professionalism and skills of 634 administrators and early education specialists.

February 2008

The Center joins national network

The Center joins the Educare Learning Network, becoming the seventh Educare Center in the country, and appoints the University of Miami as the local evaluation partner. Today there are 21 centers in this growing network.

Champions for change

Women leaders make their first of five advocacy trips to Washington DC and Tallahassee to champion quality early education policies and investments at both the state and federal level.

May 2008

The Center hosts first Visible Thinking South Florida conference

In collaboration with Florida International University, the Center hosts the first Visible Thinking South Florida conference with Harvard University professors. The Demonstration School continues to incorporate visible thinking as an evidence-based best practice in its curriculum.

September 2009

The Center receives $3.5 million Early Reading First grant

Given the importance of developing early literacy skills in young children, the Center receives a three-year, $3.5 million Early Reading First grant from the U.S. Department of Education for Project LEER (Literacy Enhancement for Early Readers). Over the course of the three years, 300 early care and education professionals and 580 students benefited from this program.

January 2010

Demonstration School receives its first accreditation

Demonstration School receives its first national accreditation, APPLE (Accredited Professional Preschool Learning Environment).

April 2010

Homeless mothers benefit from innovative program at the Center

The Center expands its Early Head Start program to serve homeless mothers and children living at Lotus House. Since inception, we have helped 42 children and their mothers.

August 2011

Creating better teachers through onsite coaching and professional learning

The Center receives a grant from The Children’s Trust to implement the Mentoring All Educators, Supporting Teachers, Raising Outcomes (MAESTRO) program which provided nearly 30 teachers with a total of 7,775 one-on-one coaching hours, another step in improving their skills.

Expanding our support to early education programs

With the launch of Pathways to Quality effort, United Way expanded its relationship with our early education funded programs. In addition to receiving funding from United Way, these programs now began to also receive strategic planning and capacity building support, another key step in elevating quality.

September 2011

Earning national Head Start recognition

The Center’s infant and toddler program is singled out among programs across the country for its innovation and excellence by Head Start in its federal monitoring report.

December 2011

Elected officials experience quality early care and education first-hand

As part of United Way’s ongoing advocacy effort, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez visits the Center. The Mayor is one of dozens of key elected officials at the local, state and national level who have visited the Center.

January 2012

Demonstration School receives highest accreditation

Center achieves NAEYC accreditation, highest early care and education recognition in the nation.

August 2012

ReadingPals promotes early literacy skills

The Center receives a grant from Carol Jenkins Barnett and Barney Barnett of Publix Supermarkets Charities to launch ReadingPals in partnership with The Children’s Movement of Florida. Now in its fifth year, this volunteer reader program has brought 650 volunteers to provide 8,410 hours of reading to 1,644 children in preschool classrooms.

August 2013

Governor Rick Scott draws attention to early learning while signing bill at the Center

A significant step in changing the system of early education in Florida came when the state passed House Bill 7165, restructuring the state’s early learning system into the Department of Education. Governor Rick Scott visits the Center to participate in a ceremonial signing of the bill.

December 2014

The Center is chosen for a 5-year, $22.5 million grant

The Center was chosen from among 200 plus organizations nationwide to receive a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) grant, totaling  $22.5 million over five years. In addition to the Center, the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe and Miami-Dade County received EHS-CCP grants, a testament to the strides being made in Miami-Dade County around quality early education.

May 2015

The Center is awarded $1.3 million grant

The Center receives a $1.3 million grant from The Children’s Trust to implement the Quality Counts Neighborhood Learning Network that has already impacted 150 early care and education programs and 9,000 children.

August 2015

The Center expands its reach in undeserved communities in Miami-Dade

The start of the school year marked the beginning of the first year of implementation of our EHS-CCP grant, serving 320 children at 16 sites. Included are four infant and toddler classrooms opened by the Center, in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, at a repurposed Ethel Beckford/Richmond Elementary School.

May 2016

The Center hosts White House summit on dual language learning

In recognition of the Center’s expertise in dual language learning, the Center was selected to host The White House Regional Summit meeting during which the administration released its dual-language policy statement and toolkit.

January 2017

The journey continues

The Center celebrates 10 years elevating the quality of early care and education in Miami-Dade and beyond…

April 2017

Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership expands to serve 200 more children

In December 2014, the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education (the Center) was awarded a 5-year, $22.5 million federal grant to enhance and expand access to quality infant and toddler care in high-need communities. This year, the Center was awarded a second $15 million, 4-year federal grant to serve an additional 200 low-income infant and toddlers and their families, and expand the number of early learning programs that offer full-day/full-year services. This is an addition to the 320 infants and toddlers currently being served by the Center at 16 early learning programs.

The first years in a child’s life – when most of their brain is forming – sets the foundation for success in school and in life. Unfortunately, too many young children are missing out on high-quality early learning experiences. With cognitive, social, behavioral and health disparities between lower- and higher-income children starting as early as nine months of age, high-quality early learning programs for infants and toddlers are a key ingredient to closing the opportunity gap, leveling the playing field, and making sure all of our children have the best odds at success.

These grants are designed to respond to the needs of working families by offering flexible and convenient full-day/full-year services. In addition, child care providers have experience providing care that is strongly grounded in the cultural, linguistic, and social needs of the families and the community. These grants ensure that early care and education centers and family child care providers have access to much-needed resources that help them provide comprehensive services for our county’s most vulnerable children and families.


May 2017

United Way of Colombia and Mexico visit the Center to learn how to take our key practices to their countries.

On May 8 – 9, United Way of Colombia and Mexico visited the Center to learn how they can implement our key practices for quality early care and education and support a sustainable and

Participants learned about what makes our Center unique from our staff and local experts in the field of early care and education.

January 2018

Expanding infant and toddler care

The Center, along with its partners, provides 520 infant and toddlers and their families with quality early care and education in 20 programs throughout Miami-Dade, four of which are operated and managed by United Way at Miami-Dade County Public Schools: Ethel Beckford/Richmond Elementary, Lillie C. Evans K-8, Carol City Elementary, and the new state-of-the-art Lotus Village Early Care and Education Program.

April 2019

Leveling the playing field for our community’s children

Science learning at any age involves curiosity, exploration, and discovery. These come naturally to most infants and toddlers.  At the Demonstration School and all of the Early Head Start programs we serve in our community, we promote an inquiry-based learning approach that is guided by an investigation or questions posed by children. Teachers observe children closely to know where their interests lie and together develop research questions.

At our United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, Demonstration School, we serve 116 children ages 0 – 5 years old in a mixed-income model environment. Some of our children are full pay, and some are subsidized by Early Head Start, Head Start or VPK. This type of set-up provides us with the unique opportunity to see if what we are doing at the Demonstration School is changing the odds for children. In a study prepared by Bellwether Education, 357 children throughout Miami-Dade County were assessed on their science competence with a tool developed by Dr. Greenfield and his team at the University of Miami called Lens on Science. The results show that Demonstration School children in the Head Start program do better than other Head Start children in the county.

June 2019

Two national studies showcase United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education as delivering transformational results


The 2019 school year has been one for the record books, as the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education’s Head Start and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership programs earned high marks from two prestigious national organizations, Bellwether Education Partners and The Bipartisan Policy Center.

Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit organization focused on reforming education to better meet the needs of underserved children, released Leading by Exemplar: Lessons from Head Start Programs.To be considered for the report, United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, Demonstration School, Educare of Miami-Dade had to show evidence of “positive impacts on children’s learning that were either substantially larger than those of typical Head Start or other early-childhood programs or sustained beyond kindergarten entry.”

The report names the Center’s Demonstration School, as one of the top five Head Start programs in the country. Using Acelero Learning key strategies, the report describes excellence, through five factors: curriculum (including assessments and instruction), meeting the needs of all children, ensuring high-quality teaching, family engagement and data utilization.

The report recognizes: “By combining curriculum, instruction and family engagement practices from a variety of sources; using data to customize them to its unique population and context; and providing intensive, highly reflective support to teachers and staff, UWCFE (the Center’s Demonstration School) has developed a unique approach to high-quality early learning that draws on a rich mosaic of practices and offerings to meet the needs of diverse children and families and model educational excellence in one of the nation’s most diverse cities.”

Earlier this year, the Bipartisan Policy Center released Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (EHS-CCP): Spotlighting Early Successes Across America, to showcase the impact of EHS-CCP on the communities it serves. Created by Congress in 2014, the EHS-CCP attempts to address issues that disproportionately affect low-to-moderate income communities by expanding access to high-quality infant and toddler care for working, low-income families.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center report, one of the biggest barriers to quality early education is the high cost associated with it. In fact, in 33 states, the cost of infant care is higher than the cost of in-state tuition at a public university. Studies show that the true cost of providing high-quality infant and toddler care can range between $12,000 and $21,000 yearly, yet the national average for subsidies is much lower, about $5,600, as stated in the report. As a result, child care centers and family child care homes that accept subsidized infants and toddlers do not have the means to offer high-quality services.

Locally, the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education is an EHS-CCP grantee and directly serves 520 children (ages six weeks to three years old) and their families, and indirectly impacts an additional 625 children. The Center partners with 16 child care centers and five family child care homes that agree to meet Head Start Program Performance Standards, and in exchange, the 21 programs receive additional funds and a myriad of resources, coaching and technical assistance to improve the quality of their services.

The Center’s EHS-CCP program excelled in five unique models, tailored to local communities and needs:

  • Enhancing the qualifications and professional development of existing workforce helping providers attain their Child Development Associate CDA Credential, and connecting them with TEACH, a national organization that provides financial assistance to early educators seeking a bachelor’s degree.
  • Supporting women and children experiencing homelessness through a partnership with Lotus Village, by offering high-quality education and parenting trainings to 48 families who live in the shelter.
  • Providing family child care homes, who generally don’t have access to robust resources and technical assistance, with a wide array of trainings to help them make necessary health, safety and education updates, including playgrounds, age-appropriate books and toys, and more…
  • Working with Miami-Dade County Public Schools to promote continuity of care and improve transition from early education to k-12 schooling for the child and the family.
  • Encouraging dual-language learners in one of the most diverse cities in the world through teacher trainings and family engagement. The impact of dual-language is multifaceted, strengthening cognitive, social and economic growth.

If you’d like a firsthand experience of the teaching and learning that takes place at the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, please email engagement@unitedwaymiami.org.

To see our expanded timeline click here.

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