Provider Spotlight: Cortaiga Collins has a vision for the West End of St. Louis

Cortaiga Collins, surrounded by family, at the ribbon-cutting for her new and upgraded facility in St. Louis’ West End neighborhood earlier this year.

Cortaiga Collins is the founder and CEO of Good Shepherd Early Learning Center in St. Louis’ West End neighborhood and a new facility, Good Shepherd Early Learning Center West in Warrenton, MO. Cortaiga was led to ECE work and advocacy by her children first, and now owns two facilities and is preparing to begin construction on the region’s first all-male preschool, The Good Shepherd Academy for Boys. Read more about Cortaiga’s story and message below.

Why did you become an advocate for ECE?

I became an advocate for ECE because I am an advocate for children and families, those most impacted by the broken system. Children and families need and deserve a thriving ECE system and I wanted to be a part of the solution. As a direct provider of ECE services, I am perfectly positioned to contribute to a better system. If not me, who?

Why do you think it’s important to be an advocate as a Provider?

It’s important for providers to advocate to ensure that those who are actually impacted by policies and systems provide input to suggested solutions. We must advocate because we are the actual boots on the ground and have insight about what is needed to improve the system. We have to raise our voices to ensure the system is equitable for students, families AND providers.

Why should Missouri invest more in early childcare and education?

Missouri should invest more in early childcare and education because by doing so they invest in Missouri’s future. An investment will ensure more children enter kindergarten academically, socially and developmentally prepared. Subsequently fewer dollars will be spent on social services, fewer children will drop out of high school, fewer children will become justice involved. Additionally an investment in ECE is an investment in strengthening Missouri’s economy.

In one sentence, what does the ideal early childcare and education systems look like for families in Missouri?

The ideal early childcare system is affordable, equitable and accessible to all families regardless of their zip code.

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