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Meet Manny Cantor’s Early Childhood Visiting Fellow: Yang Zhang

By Manny Cantor Center | In Archive, Early Childhood, In The News, Meet MCC | on October 20, 2016
Our visiting fellow Yang Zhang in the Manny Cantor lobby.

Our visiting fellow Yang Zhang in the Manny Cantor lobby.

We are thrilled to welcome visiting fellow, Yang Zhang to Manny Cantor Center. During her month-long stay organized by the State Department, Yang will be working with our Educational Alliance Head Start programs at Manny Cantor Center and Weinberg Senior Center to help us envision a three-generational model for learning. Manny Cantor Center is proud to be home to New York City’s first two-generational learning model, College Access and Success Program, and to be one the only early childhood education classrooms on the Lower East Side to receive National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation. With Yang’s visit, we are lucky to join an international community of learners working to build educational experiences that spans generations. Read our interview with Yang below!

Tell us about yourself:
I run a foundation in China called the Dalian Star Foundation, which supports community centers throughout the city by offering parenting classes, activities and events for local families. I started my foundation by holding simple informal group discussions about raising children. There aren’t really any parenting classes like there are here in China. I found that most parents did not have the required knowledge of child development and child psychology.

As we started growing we wanted to become an NGO. We started by asking professors at universities for help setting up parenting courses. These have now been running for just a year but serve around 300 parents. We also offer activities and programs, which parents are sometimes more likely to attend than classes. There are consultants in all of our activities to observe child/parent interactions and give advice to parents.

What do you hope to learn at Manny Cantor Center?
I hope to learn more about the infrastructure of how these programs are set up. Hopefully I can bring that back to China and become a policy advocate. Here and in China, people to people relationships are the same and our needs are the same because we are all human. What is lacking there is the infrastructure for these social programs, like Head Start, which serves children regardless of income. In China the free education model begins in elementary school but there are no free or low-cost programs that serve children from 0 to 6. It’s great to be here and to be able to learn about Head Start and how the government has been supporting it. I look forward to my visits to classrooms to really see how it all works.

How do you like MCC?
The Manny Cantor Center and Educational Alliance is the perfect match for me. The Head Start program and Reggio Emilia teaching method are exactly what we are trying to implement in China. I am so glad to be here and learn about early childhood classes in order to understand how everything works.

Being here is a very joyful experience and exactly what I imagine a good community looks like. A place that serves people from the age of 0 to 100 (or more!) and where everyone is welcome.

What about New York City?
New York City is so diverse and different. The other day I visited an English course of about 20 seniors at MCC. They were all from China, like me, but we couldn’t really communicate! They don’t speak Mandarin and I don’t speak Cantonese. A lot of them also immigrated at a young age, but it is great to see how they can still be part of a strong community. I feel at home in this community. Though it is very different from home, you can still see the culture and history here. People enjoy life in the states and benefit from what the community provides.

What is one thing that you’ve noticed about MCC?
I was out in the lobby earlier looking at the wall of donors and thinking about how inspiring the culture of giving and philanthropy is here. I also read up on Manny Cantor and how his life was one of setting an example and passing down values to future generations.  I found those words and that idea truly inspiring.

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