It’s more than a job perk for Lauren Broadhurst Cook ’03 that the two floors below her office are populated by infants, toddlers, and sundry other children. She’s heading toward her first year anniversary as chief executive officer of Ellis, a nonprofit early education program on Boston’s South End.
“For me, what drew me to the job was the kids [ages] zero to five. Those are my people. I love young children,” Cook says. “I’d rather go to a first birthday party rather than a 40th birthday party any day. I was the young child who always wanted to hold the babies. To me, they’re magical.”
The primary mission of Ellis is to provide high-quality, affordable education in a diverse setting to working Boston families. The program, with a waiting list of more than 300 children, serves 167 children ranging in age from eight weeks to five years and about 80 school-aged children who attend Ellis outside of school hours.
“What sets Ellis apart is we’re an economically integrated program,” Cook says. More than half its students come from low-income households that receive state subsidies to pay the Ellis fees. The other students come from families who pay private rates, which Ellis strives to keep reasonable. The mix creates true socioeconomic, racial, and cultural diversity, a rarity in Boston, Cook says.
Research shows that when children from low-income families attend mixed-income, high-quality early education programs, they have higher gains than peers at economically segregated programs, she explains. “And research also shows that children who attend socioeconomically and racially diverse schools like Ellis build more empathy and are less racist, so we like to think of all kids thriving together,” Cook says.