Hilltop Early Learning Center director shares his vision for the community

By Christine Bryant
Staff Writer

Brione Prince

It takes a village. Though the proverb has helped motivate communities for centuries, it’s one that Brione’ Prince holds close as he strives to set young children up for educational success in the future.

In 2017, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther created the Hilltop Early Childhood Partnership to help increase the number of children enrolled in quality early learning programs. As part of the initiative, the Hilltop Early Learning Center opened in summer 2023.

Along with a focus on pre-K education, the center on Clarendon Avenue includes a healthcare facility, food security resources, counseling and more.

In November, the Hilltop Early Learning Center welcomed Prince as its new director. Prince graduated from Central State University and brings experience in education and mental health.

The Westside Messenger asked Prince about his vision for the center, the challenges he faces in his role, and his plans for creating a safe space that the entire community can benefit from and enjoy. Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Can you share how your educational background and experience have shaped your approach to early childhood education?

I feel that my education and background has given me a vast number of vantage points when it comes to education, and because of this, I approach education and the way it’s taught and received with open arms. We have groomed today’s leaders with yesterday’s ways and now as we embark upon new age technology, we must adjust the way in which we teach to keep up with the speed of an ever-evolving community and world – we as a collective. I plan to incorporate all the things that we possibly can to make sure our students, parents and community have all the tools necessary to be successful.

What is your vision for Hilltop Early Learning Child Center, and how do you see it evolving under your leadership?

My vision is to see the Hilltop Learning Center becoming a staple in the community, a place of education for families, not just children – a place where families in need can seek a variety of services comfortably without judgement.

Given your passion for community engagement, what strategies do you have in mind to strengthen the center’s ties with the local community?

I plan on being at the Hilltop community meetings, recreation centers and any programming that is Hilltop-related. I feel that in order to be effective in the community, you have to be among the community, see the community from the inside and hear the voices of the people who reside in it. It is my goal to make the Hilltop Learning Center a staple in the community that all feel welcome to patron.

How do you envision the center contributing to the overall well-being and development of the families it serves, particularly those from low-income backgrounds?

I see the center being a safe place and a conduit to programs that the community may not be aware of, such as father-to-father programs that help fathers who come from broken homes to be more emotionally aware of the effects of broken homes, how to navigate this new age and how they can successfully be dads to their children. Other examples are mother-to-son programs for single mothers who are struggling for whatever reason dad may not be around, as well as family programs that assist in simple communication and family therapies. We want to become one of the go-to places for community uplift in the Hilltop area, and with the drive and dedication that the staff and all the partners have, I am more than confident we will be just that.

Are there any innovative programs or approaches you plan to introduce at Hilltop Early Learning Child Center?

There are many initiatives and programs that I would like to bring to the Hilltop and look forward to doing so, but again this is a community-based program, so I will seek out the partnerships, community leaders, parents and all those who it would potentially impact to make sure such programming is needed, wanted and can be made accessible to all those in need or who want to simply partake.

How do you plan to foster a collaborative and inclusive environment among the staff, parents and community partners?

I plan to foster collaborative relationships by way of transparent communication. I feel it is necessary to be open to all thoughts and practices so that we may achieve our common goal. I am a firm believer in the saying “It takes a village” and to me that village has no particular look and bares no individual logo. We are a collective, and I plan on using all the resources provided to me, whether it be input from teachers, parents, community partners or a passerby. If it will benefit the community, our children and all those we serve or may potentially be able to serve, then I will use it to its fullest potential.

How will you measure the success of your leadership at Hilltop Early Learning Child Center, and what key performance indicators do you find most important in assessing the center’s impact?

I will measure my success by a few different things, the first being the growth of our children and their families. Our foundation is based on community education and that is not only extended to our children but to their entire families as well.

The second measure is the cultivating and implementation of programs that we successfully bring to the Hilltop that will help further adult education such as ESL classes, resume and job readiness workshops. Our job as a community-based education center is to do just that – educate the community. So my success to me will be graded by how the community around us starts to flourish from the strong seeds we have planted from within.

For the preschoolers enrolled in our program, we assess their developmental progress several times and adjust lesson plans to address individual and classroom needs. Our children’s kindergarten readiness and how well they do in school will demonstrate our success and prove the critical importance of early education.

What potential challenges do you anticipate in your role, and how do you plan to address them?

The potential challenges that may occur are us not having enough classrooms and or space to provide all this great education we have to offer. I feel that once people know that we are here, all the community-based programs and partnerships that we provide will have a line out the door.

We are also looking for the absolute best early educators in the city, state and country. We want to get the word out that this premium center has been built by the city of Columbus, and those with passion for early childhood education should bring their talent to this incredible facility that is right here in the Hilltop.

 

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