In the next two years, Malaika Early Learning Center will expand its child care, pre-K, and kindergarten programs in Milwaukee to include grades 1-3, establishing one of the first birth through age 8 models in Wisconsin.
Malaika was founded in 2003 to provide high-quality child care and early education for children in poverty. Through Early Head Start and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, it currently serves over 100 children up to age 5.
Malaika is one of the highest quality early childhood centers in Wisconsin, earning a 5-star rating from Wisconsin Young Stars and accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Ninety-five percent of students leave Malaika at or above grade level for their next stage of education. Very few suburban programs achieve this level of quality, and Malaika serves a 99 percent minority and 85 percent low-income population.
In developing this new program, Malaika has worked extensively with PAVE, another IFF partner organization, on board development and strategic planning. Through a $700,000 loan from IFF, Malaika will add a parking lot and three new classrooms for grades 1-3 to its existing state-of-the-art facility, which was built using best practices in child care design. This program allows children in its Early Head Start, Head Start, and Milwaukee Parental Choice programs to continue attending Malaika after pre-K and kindergarten in a neighborhood identified by IFF as most in need of high-performing K-8 seats.
“Dealing with IFF for the loan was a pleasure and very straightforward process,” board President Dennis Mueller said. “Unlike conventional lenders, we did not need to educate IFF’s staff on the issues of running a school, the cyclical financial requirements, and the sources of funds. We were able to share our business plan and financial model with them in one meeting and they completely understood what we were trying to accomplish and how we anticipated being able to service the loan. A conventional lender would have taken months to review and approve what IFF was able to accomplish in weeks.”
By keeping high-risk children in a stable learning environment from birth through third grade, Malaika’s new program builds an emotional, social, and academic base for them to be successful in future educational settings. In addition to benefiting families in a high-need community, Malaika will welcome eight new employees to its 18-person staff. The expansion also will financially stabilize Malaika by increasing revenue from the Choice program and decreasing a reliance on fundraising.