ORLANDO — Forty of Central Florida’s youngest residents will soon have the opportunity to learn in a brand-new, tuition-free preschool, thanks to a partnership between nonprofit affordable housing developer Ability Housing and early childhood education provider Bezos Academy.
Representatives from Ability Housing, Bezos Academy and the City of Orlando today celebrated the grand opening of the Bezos Academy’s first location in Florida. The tuition-free, Montessori-inspired preschool will start classes on Monday, March 20 at Village on Mercy, a multifamily affordable housing community owned by Ability Housing and located at 1766 Mercy Drive.
The preschool offers year-round programming, five days a week, for children ages 3-5 years old. Bezos Academy’s classes are provided at no cost to the families being served and include everything that the children need during the day, including meals.
The addition of Bezos Academy to Village on Mercy represents one more step in Ability Housing’s work to eliminate intergenerational poverty among its residents.
“A stable home is essential for all children. It positively impacts their physical and mental health and improves their educational performance. Hundreds of Orlando families have benefited from having an affordable home in which to raise their children since Village on Mercy opened in 2019. Adding a tuition-free preschool right on the property, in partnership with Bezos Academy, further demonstrates Ability Housing’s commitment to investing in solutions that help working families prepare for a bright future,” said Shannon Nazworth, President and CEO of Ability Housing.
The opening of Bezos Academy at Village on Mercy aligns with the Mercy Drive Vision Plan, which was developed by City of Orlando District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill in collaboration with the City of Orlando Economic Development Department-Planning Division and Canin Associates. The plan, published in December 2017, centered around a vision for “a safe, attractive, and connected community with quality homes and apartments that empowers neighbors of all ages to learn, build, and create together.”
City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Commissioner Hill joined leaders from Ability Housing and Bezos Academy for the celebration.
“Today is a great day for the Mercy Drive community, and especially for our young neighbors who will grow up to become our city’s next generation of leaders,” said Mayor Dyer. “On behalf of our constituents in District 5 and the entire City of Orlando, I am honored to welcome Bezos Academy to the City Beautiful.”
The first Bezos Academy opened in Des Moines, Washington in October 2020. In addition to today’s celebration for its first location in Florida, the organization is in the process of opening its first preschool in Texas.
“Investing in communities means investing in early childhood education,” said Mike George, President of Bezos Academy. “Thanks to the visionary leadership at Ability Housing and the City of Orlando, the children of the Mercy Drive neighborhood will have access to the great start that an excellent preschool provides. We can’t wait to welcome them next week!”
The Bezos Academy at Village on Mercy is currently accepting applications. Families earning up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level with children whose birthdates are between September 2, 2018, and September 1, 2019, are eligible to apply for the remainder of the 2022-2023 school year. Applications for the 2023-2024 school year will open in the spring and run through the summer.
More information is available at bezosacademy.org.