Opportunity School History
OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL FOUNDED
Opportunity School was started by a group of people from the First Presbyterian Church of Amarillo in response to a community need for high quality educational programs for young children from minority and low-income families. The student body of 15 grew to 50 children by 1973, and weekly parent/teacher visits were initiated.
OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL GROWS
A fifth class was added. A total of 80 children were served at the Central campus with a five-day, half-day program which included bus pick-up and delivery from/to children’s homes.
OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL NATIONALLY ACCREDITED
The first year of the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) accreditation program, Opportunity School's Central Campus became the first accredited preschool in Amarillo and one of the first 200 in the nation. Today, the only other NAEYC-accredited preschool in Amarillo is located at Amarillo College. Accreditation standards emphasize low ratios of children to adults, developmentally appropriate curriculum and meaningful child/adult interactions.
PARENTS AS TEACHERS INITIATED
Opportunity School, in cooperation with the Amarillo Independent School District (AISD), initiated and directed Parents as Teachers® (PAT) for parents of 100-150 children. This national program provides support and education for parents of babies ages birth to three. Monthly home visits with teachers, weekly play sessions at three Amarillo elementary schools, a bi-monthly newsletter, and monthly parent meetings are the main components of the program. Children who were enrolled in PAT were assured a place at Opportunity School when they reached the age of three. On January 1, 2000, the PAT program became fully incorporated into the AISD system, and an additional PAT program was initiated at Opportunity School’s Grand Street Campus for parents of children in the infant, one-year-old, and two-year-old classrooms.
LIPS! ANNUAL FUNDRAISER FIRST PRESENTED
Opportunity School started its very successful annual LIPS! fundraiser. LIPS! is an evening of hilarious lip-sync variety acts where local personalities impersonate celebrities in a stage show along with a dinner, auction and raffle. Local businesses and individuals support the event. LIPS! is the school's biggest night and contributes to the school’s annual operating budget.
ELAINE EDWARDS HONORED
Elaine Edwards was named as an Honorary Life Member of the Opportunity School Board of Trustees to acknowledge her extraordinary service to the school since its inception. Elaine is responsible for much of the fundraising success that has allowed Opportunity School to thrive.
EXTENDED DAY PROGRAM BEGINS
To meet the needs of full-day working parents, Opportunity School began to offer an extended day program where children could remain on the campus for lunch, a nap, and additional afternoon learning activities.
WOMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD RECEIVED
Betsy Singleton, Opportunity School’s first director, was named Amarillo’s WOMAN OF THE YEAR by the Amarillo Globe-News. Betsy, whose involvement with Opportunity School dated back to 1969, was recognized for working tirelessly for the best interests of young children for more than 30 years.
BOOKS TO BABIES BEGINS
In a collaborative effort with the Amarillo Independent School District (AISD), the Retired and Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP), Northwest Texas Healthcare System (NWTH), Baptist St. Anthony Healthcare System (BSA), and the Harrington Regional Medical Center, Opportunity School extended its community service to provide a developmental calendar and first book for every baby born in Amarillo’s hospitals. Former First Lady and literacy advocate, Barbara Bush, came to Amarillo to help launch the program.
HELLO WORLD PUBLISHED
Opportunity School published its own book, Hello World, to distribute to new parents in July 1999. Written by Betsy Singleton, Hello World is a developmentally appropriate and interesting first book for babies.
OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL OPENS SECOND CAMPUS
After 30 years of successfully providing high quality early educational services to the community, a long-time supporter suggested that Opportunity School expand. The Community of Grace United Methodist Church in Northeast Amarillo offered its educational wing to the school for expansion. Polk Street United Methodist Church pledged financial and volunteer support, and Opportunity School received additional contributions totaling more than $100,000 for building renovations. Volunteers donated more than 1,000 hours to paint; finish building renovations; put up a fence; assemble furniture; and make curtains, book bags, baby bibs, and blankets. The new site opened to meet the critical need for full-day programs to help working families as well as the need for quality care to satisfy young children’s developmental needs during their early years. The Opportunity School Grand Street Campus serves 72 children from six weeks old to kindergarten age.
EARLY HEAD START CLASS INBTRODUCED
In October 2000, Opportunity School initiated a cooperative effort with Early Head Start to conduct a class for eight children at the Grand Street Campus.
NEW KITCHEN & FULL MEAL SERVICE ADDED TO GRAND STREET CAMPUS
The Sybil B. Harrington Trust made a gift of more than $91,000 to renovate and equip a full-service kitchen at the Grand Street Campus so that meal services could begin. Mrs. Harrington’s Trust also supported a major portion of the cook’s salary. In October 2001, the school began serving a nutritional hot breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack daily to every child at no additional cost.
FRIENDS OF OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL FORMED
In order to meet the school’s growing financial needs and increase volunteer support, the Opportunity School Board of Trustees formed a new group, Friends of Opportunity School, whose purpose is to raise funds and build community awareness for the school.
40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Opportunity School celebrated 40 years of success.
NAMED NO EXCUSES UNIVERSITY PRESCHOOL - FIRST IN U.S.
In keeping with Opportunity School's philosophy to help children become lifelong learners, the school was named a No Excuses University Preschool which is unique outside of a public school system. This is a network of school across the country focusing on the belief that every child deserves the right to be educated in a way that prepares them for college if that's the path they choose. At Opportunity School we are planting the seeds of college in the hearts and minds of our young students as well as encouraging our staff and parents of our young students to pursue their education goals as well.
PARTNERSHIP WITH HIGH PLAINS FOOD BANK KIDS' CAFE
When Opportunity School's cook was away from work for an extended period due to a family emergency, we realized that such a critical part of our program was vulnerable. In order the fill the gap, the Food Bank stepped into to help. In July of 2015, the Food Bank and Opportunity School decided to do what each does best. Education and learning for Opportunity School and food for the Food Bank. This type of partnership is unique in our region. The Kids Cafe program provides home-cooked meals from the Kids Cafe kitchen that meets licensing and other feeding standards for young children.
COLLABORATION WITH DOWNTOWN WOMEN'S CENTER
To address the need of women with children who are fighting addiction, Opportunity School and the Downtown Women's Center are working together to serve young children while their moms are working to get these lives on track. Opportunity School will serve 0-3 year-olds in collaboration with Early Head Start and Region 16 within the DWC's new Gratitude House. Three and four year-olds will be able to attend class across the street at Opportunity School's Central Campus.
50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Opportunity School turned 50! We celebrated with a lovely luncheon honoring past leaders including Elaine Edwards, Betsy Singleton, Pat Mathis, Toni Bennett and Dianne Hill in April hosted by the Board of Trustees. Then in June we hosted a family picnic of current and former families, students, staff and teachers. Everyone was invited. A strong cold front came into the area so that picnic moved from Elwood Park into the Great Hall at First Presbyterian Church and fun was had by all.
GROUNDBREAKING FOR NEW EDWARDS CAMPUS
Opportunity School broke ground at the location of Opportunity School's new campus - the Elaine Edwards Center for Early Childhood Development on the school's new property located at 5th and Ross. The groundbreaking was held just days before the global pandemic caused mass closures of schools and businesses across our community.
CENTRAL CAMPUS MOVES INTO NEWLY-REMODELED CLASSROOMS AT FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH; EDWARDS CAMPUS OPENS
Opportunity School was fortunate that in 2021, all the classrooms were new and ready for learning by young children. The Central Campus relocated to new classrooms in April after a 10-month temporary move to the 2nd floor of the FPC Children's Education building. In September, the Grand Street program was relocated to the new Edwards Campus and the program reopened on September 20.
LIPS RETURNS AS IN-PERSON EVENT
LIPS returned to the stage with Jazzin' Up LIPS after a 2-year hiatus with special music from former student, Marlin McKay & Company along with fun lip-sync acts that we know and love. A more relaxed format with food stations and new catering by Girasol Cafe was a hit for over 300 guests.