( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Tiffany Ford’s “Creative Curriculum” Fuses the Arts With Formal Education to Help Underserved Youth Learn Effectively and Find Outlets for Self-Expression
ENSPIRE Contributor: Jasiely Hilario
Entrepreneur, educator, consultant, and millionaire Tiffany Ford owns two schools and a performing arts center in Philadelphia. She is highly sought after for the tools, resources, and amazing results she provides to students and parents to improve the education of underserved youth. In her performing arts school, her girl’s dance team travels the country and wins many awards.
Tiffany believes she has the answers to give urban youth the academic spark they need to flourish. Known as “The Childcare Guru,” she has a knack for bringing the best out of her kids in the classroom. She instills confidence and social skills that position them for future success. Her results have been so exceptional that other educational entrepreneurs flock to her for her secrets. They seek her guidance in hopes of being able to run successful schools and childcare centers, sparking change in their communities.
Ford, a Philadelphia native, has worked passionately in the fields of childcare and education for the last 15 years. She is the owner of Little Leaders Learning Academy, co-owner of Stages Community School, and the founder of Leaders and Legends Performing Arts Academy, which teaches jazz, tap, ballet, modern dance, drama, karate, and vocal classes in southwest Philadelphia.
What Issues Does Tiffany Ford Face?
Ford’s curriculums have thrived since 2009. It offers both students and parents exposure to various resources and sets them up for success. That success, however, has not come without its challenges. A lot of those challenges have to do with financial challenges, poverty, and just a lack of resources. Ford explains, “A lot of our families enjoy our programming, especially our arts programming, but sometimes unfortunately they can’t afford everything that we have to offer. Therefore, we do things like fundraising and getting donations, and outside support from people that are in our network to assist them.”
“The biggest issue is with early learning and how many people think it’s an option, not a necessity,” Ford said. “They think that teaching children self-regulation skills is an option. However, children need that even before they enter school. Parents need to understand the need for early education. It’s good for them as well.”
How Has Ford’s Life Impacted Her Mission?
As a child, Ford experienced what many inner-city youths on the south side of Philadelphia experienced. She saw gun violence in her neighborhood, as well as domestic and drug abuse in the home. Through the performing arts, she found her outlet, dancing for many years and competing in oratorical competitions. Later, she worked in social services and earned a Master’s Degree in Psychology with a minor in Childhood Development.
Reflecting on how the performing arts helped her to endure trauma, express herself, and develop confidence, she found her motivation to open her own childcare and performing arts centers beginning in 2009.
Ford frequently saw truant children and how the lack of family structure and routines impacted them. She decided it was crucial to identify ways to reach the families before the children got older. Her schools offer non-traditional learning programs. They use what is referred to as a “creative curriculum,” to keep the youth excited and engaged in learning. Ford is also a vendor of PHLpreK, the free quality Pre-K program launched by the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Education.
How Does Tiffany Ford Ensure Success Among the Youth?
To make sure each child is receiving the attention they need, Tiffany and her team initiate communication between students and parents. If no progress is made, then they reinvest and create a meeting with the parents to figure out the best way to help the kid get exactly what they need to succeed. Communication is the biggest part. Ford is looking to add programming for the parents that provide them with the resources to help their kids get the most out of school.
“In Philly and other urban centers, the lack of exposure hinders students. I wanted to make sure that I connected with parents and exposed them not only to educational resources but to social resources as well,” she said. “We have a lot of violence and shootings, but when we take the kids and work with their interests and work with what they want to do, there is major progress.”
What Other Things Are Being Done Within Tiffany Ford’s Programs To Help The Youth?
Ford is helping other entrepreneurs in education to launch and scale their own childcare centers and schools. Because of her success and powerful reputation in the community, she receives countless inquiries. Ford wants to ensure that children across the country can receive the support they need. She guides other leaders using her expertise and guidance in the areas of early learning, lesson planning, and curriculum development.
Within the next few years, she plans to move into a larger building to serve more families. Ford also wants to expand her performing arts programming. “I don’t think that I want to expand the daycare. However, I want to relocate to reach the population that I enjoy working with the most, which is the parents who need resources.”
Tiffany Ford’s overall goal is “to truly impact lives and elevate our communities. Doing this by preparing our youth to be successful and to be the future leaders of our society.”
Learn more about Tiffany Ford’s mission to help youth with their education and the start of their lives by checking out her child care website Little Leaders Learning Academy and her performing arts website Leaders and Legends Performing Arts Academy.