“I had to sacrifice to provide for my kids,” said Erika Mitchell. “Sometimes we didn’t have cable or internet, but I made sure the necessities were taken care of. I took whatever contract work I could find so that I could stay home and raise my kids.”
When Mitchell needed to return to work full-time, she searched for high-quality programs for her son and daughter that she could afford. The search included finding a pre-K that could challenge her older son, who had begun to read and write with Mitchell at home. “We’d work on colors, numbers in Spanish and English, reading, and writing,” she said. “I also sought out learning opportunities that didn’t have a cost, like visiting the High Museum on free family admission days.”
Mitchell has seen the transformative results of early childhood development not only in her own children, but also during her five years as a volunteer for EasterSeals, an organization that helps provide a birth-to-five (and beyond) continuum of care for kids with special needs.
“I’ve seen how EasterSeals early childhood programs have helped kids in elementary school and beyond,” said Mitchell. “In addition to their emotional and social growth, the program helps improve kids’ literacy, which in turn helps them read on grade level in elementary school, which in turn helps ensure they will graduate on time.”
Mitchell’s experiences volunteering in the community led her to seek public office.
“I saw things that affected my community and our kids,” she explained. “I found out I shared many of the priorities of those running for City Council in my district. And I kept coming back to the idea that everything starts with education.”
One of Mitchell’s priorities will be expanding early childhood education and development programs in the city.
“Programs like EasterSeals need sustainable funding to reach all kids in Atlanta” said Mitchell. “As a member of the school board, I can help make that happen.”
She recognizes this will require a collaborative approach.
“If the City Council and Board of Education work together,” Mitchell said, “so much can get done.”