BACK OF THE YARDS — A group of children at a daycare for low-income parents received a visit from a surprise guest Friday: President Bill Clinton.
The former president stopped by the Early Learning and Wellness Center, 5338 S. Loomis St., with Mayor Rahm Emanuel on their way to a Downtown fundraiser. Clinton said he wanted to visit the center after learning about the services it provides.
"As we read to the kids, some of them as young as 4 years old were reading based on memory. They had read the book before and remembered what it was about. At that age, that's remarkable," Clinton said. "I hope I have a chance to tout the success Chicago is achieving with early childhood education as I travel the world."
As a father of three, Emanuel said he learned the value of wraparound services from his father, who was a pediatrician.
"Last week marked the first year all kindergarten children had a full day of school instead of a few hours," Emanuel said. "This is a great facility and I am glad the president made time to come see it for himself."
Clinton praised the mayor for his efforts to make early childhood education accessible to all parents.
"Chicago should be proud of what it is doing in the area of early childhood education," Clinton said. "We are not living in a world where we can afford not to develop the full potential of our people."
Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), whose ward include the center, said after the presidential visit that he was excited about the possibilities that more centers offering wraparound services could do for families.
"Early childhood development is about getting kids accustomed to coming to school, reading and being comfortable with conversations and language," Cochran said. "And when we do that, then we have a child that can transition to the first, second and third grade."
Ric Estrada, CEO of Metropolitan Family Services, said his organization plans to open more early childhood centers in the near future including one it plans to open Gage Park by 2015.
"His (Clinton's) presence is an affirmation of the hard work we are doing to provide services to families," Estrada said.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: