Ability Housing, a non-profit multifamily developer headquartered in Florida with properties around the state, has teamed up with the City of Orlando and Bezos Academy to celebrate the opening of a new tuition-free pre-school in the city’s Village on Mercy apartment community. Built by Ability Housing in 2019, Village on Mercy includes 166 affordable apartment homes, as well as a community center, training room, computer lab, playground, and recreation space. By adopting the permanent supportive housing and Housing First approaches, Ability Housing has used evidence-based practices to ensure that community members stay housed. Now, the organization has offered further support to the community by providing Bezos Academy with the space necessary to operate the new preschool.
The Montessori-inspired preschool opened in March 2023 and is currently accepting applications for the 2023-2024 school year. The preschool operates year-round, five days a week, and serves children ages three to five. Bezos Academy will also provide children with breakfast, lunch, and a take-home dinner.
Establishing the new Bezos Academy at Village on Mercy will help Ability Housing address one of its primary goals: reducing intergenerational poverty among residents. The preschool also complements Orlando’s 2017 Mercy Drive Vision Plan, which articulates strategies to create a stronger community in which all neighbors prosper together, including children. NLIHC’s Opportunity Starts at Home campaign has drawn attention to the fact that children are more likely to graduate when they have an affordable home and access to early education. The families of Village on Mercy now have both.
“Village on Mercy is a shining example of a property where collaboration creates impact greater than the sum of its parts,” said Shannon Nazworth, president and CEO of Ability Housing. “Hundreds of Orlando families call this beautiful place ‘home’ every day. Partnering with Bezos Academy to bring a tuition-free preschool to the community only expanded our capacity for service. In the two months since the Bezos Academy preschool opened, dozens of young learners have discovered a world of knowledge on Mercy Drive – including children living at our property and others who live in the surrounding neighborhood. We hope this innovative partnership inspires other organizations to leverage their capacity, helping each other be more successful and creating a brighter tomorrow.”
Bezos Academy is a non-profit organization that has been establishing tuition-free schools across the country, beginning in Florida, Texas, and Washington State. The preschools are hosted by partner organizations, and affordable housing providers presently make up the largest percentage of host partners. Organizations interested in hosting a Bezos Academy preschool can find more information at www.BezosAcademy.org/host.
Applications for the 2023-2024 school year at the Village on Mercy’s Bezos Academy are due on June 5. The school will then conduct a lottery of applicants on June 6, and families accepted to the school will be notified by June 12. Families earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level (up to $120,000 annually for a family of four) with children who are between three and four years old years as of September 1, 2023, are eligible to apply. Families interested in applying are encouraged to visit the school’s website here.