Enjoying equitable access to education is a right that every child deserves. Children who are surrounded by a strong ecosystem of dedicated community members are often empowered to become critical thinkers and initiate generational change. By prioritizing early education, children are able to receive the care, engagement and support they need to develop healthy habits and a secure foundation.

It is for this reason that KZCF donor Laura Bell created the Laura S. Bell Equity in Early Childhood Fund. This field-of-interest fund is currently supporting the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC). The organization provides year-round prekindergarten education for children in the Northside, Eastside and Edison neighborhoods.

“I had trust that KZCF knew where to put resources to help lift and support areas of Kalamazoo County that really need it,” Bell said. For Bell, investing in the community meant being strategic about how to support long-term positive change. Her goal was to help improve the lives of community members in a way that would be transformative. Sandy Barry-Loken, KZCF vice president of Community Impact & Investment, supports the collaborative’s comprehensive approach to investing in early learning education.

“By centering racial equity and using a multi-generational approach, ELNC is shifting the early childhood education system, ensuring relevant, culturally competent early care and education for children and their families,” she said.

Dr. Nkechy E. Ezeh, founder and CEO of ELNC, said KZCF’s commitment to early childhood education for vulnerable children provides funding, time, mentorship and leadership, all of which contribute to long-term systems change.

“I am really grateful to be able to support this programming and excited to give back to a community that has given me so much.”

- Laura Bell, KZCF Donor

The Laura S. Bell Equity in Early Childhood Fund supports free access to prekindergarten programming in the Kalamazoo community. As she continues her support of the collaborative, Bell is hopeful about what the future holds for the next generation of community members.

To read all of the stories from our 2022 Annual Report, click here.