September saw a new educational experience come to town. The Dr. Lorenzo Harris, Jr. Early Childhood Learning Center, built by Interfaith Neighbors, opened its doors. The Center will be the educational home to some of the city’s youngest residents. “The children served here,” according to Ashley Fabien, Director of Learning and Lead Teacher, “will range in age from 6 months to 3 years.”
Initially there will be 18 children, increasing to a total of 34. The center’s furnishings, curriculum and meals are Montessori-based, explained Ms. Fabien, an Asbury Park native herself, who is excited to head up the City’s first-ever Montessori school. Right now, she says the center has eight teachers, all of whom are being trained in the Montessori method.
The school, which is open to residents of Asbury Park and the surrounding areas, operates on a sliding scale basis. It is located on Atkins Ave.
Paul McEvily, Executive Director of Interfaith Neighbors, offered the Center’s dedication. Several others participated in the ceremony, such as New Jersey State Senator Vin Gopal. After his remarks, McEvily brought up Community Leader Kay Harris, daughter of Dr Lorenzo Harris, after whom the school was named. “Our father cared deeply about his hometown, Asbury Park, where he grew up and returned after completing his medical internship, to raise his own family. He cared deeply about Asbury Park and especially its youth. He would be greatly honored to know that Interfaith Neighbors Early Childhood Learning Center was named in his honor,” stated his daughter Kay Harris.
Dr. Harris practiced medicine in the City for 45 years, making house calls, which was common many years ago. Dr. Harris was also the team doctor for the Asbury Park High School Football team. He became the first African American City Council member in Asbury Park, a position he held until 1985. During that time, he was able to initiate the creation of a Substance Abuse treatment center, among other projects.
Both of Dr. Harris’ daughters, Kay and Sharon, were in attendance. Sharon is a retired Asbury Park teacher.
The Reverend Kerwin Webb offered the closing dedication and blessing for the school which was followed by the ribbon cutting.