It's Time to Enroll in MECK Pre-K

600 pre-kindergarten spots are open NOW.
Fill out an application today!
MECK Pre-K is a free, high-quality program designed to strengthen four-year-old children’s academic and social skills. Classrooms will be located across the county and all classes will be taught by a licensed teacher and teacher assistant. Children attend a six and one-half hour program each day based on Charlotte-Mecklenburg School’s calendar.

To apply for the 2018-19 school year, your child must be 4 years old on or before August 31, 2018 and live in Mecklenburg county.  

The following documents will be required for application:
  • Proof of child's date of birth and legal name
  • Two forms of current proof of Mecklenburg County residency (This residency policy does not apply to homeless students, as defined by the McKinney-Vento Act.)
  • Proof of ALL Current Household Income

The following documents are required by the 30th day of school:      
  • Current Immunizations records
  • Health Assessments for all new Pre-K students
Click here to learn more about MECK Pre-K and the required documents you will need before applying for enrollment.

For more information, call 704-943-9585 or  email
You're Invited!
Join us for two exciting events that benefit and celebrate Smart Start.
Operation 007: The Young Professional's Gala hosted by EatWorkPlay CLT
September 8, 2018 | 6:00-11:00pm | Sugar Creek Brewing

Trade in your spyglasses for a "shaken, not stirred" martini. It’s time to celebrate Bond style at EatWorkPlay’s Young Professional Gala.

The event begins with a luxury red carpet and Aston Martin photo opp. The gala will include beer from Sugar Creek Brewery, wine from Skeleton Wines and drinks provided by Tito's. Guests will enjoy food from local restaurants and can dance the night away with tunes provided by the live band Menastree and a great DJ. You can also try your hand at Poker or Blackjack in the Casino Lounge.

A portion of proceeds raised at the gala will go to benefit Smart Start of Mecklenburg County.
Smart Start 25th Anniversary Gala
September 22 | 7:00-11:00pm | Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh

Join us at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh for an evening of play, entertainment, and the honoring of Smart Start's 25 years of work to build strong and vibrant children, families, and communities in North Carolina.

Smart Start staff, partners, and supporters from across the state will enjoy entertainment by the  Bull City Syndicate  and  Imagine Circus , the presentation of awards honoring special guests, a raffle, and more! 

The evening is black-tie optional, with food and drink included with your ticket purchase.
Going Back to Nature

How an Outdoor Learning Environment changed the way one child care center serves its children
One of the trends we are happy to see gaining momentum in early childhood education is the development of Outdoor Learning Environments (OLE). OLEs are thoughtfully designed spaces that allow children to learn through gardening, playing outdoors and interacting with nature.

Pat Porter, Director of The Early Learning Center, joined the Shape NC initiative and soon after installed an Outdoor Learning Environment. With features ranging from a pretend Post Office to a large edible garden space, the OLE gives staff the opportunity to provide hands-on experience and teach about everything from future careers to bugs to healthy eating.

What is the Early Learning Center and who does it serve?
The Early Learning Center serves children ages birth thru 12 years. The Center has been in operation for 21 years and is licensed for 95 children. The Center serves Early Headstart families and NC Pre-K children, as well as the community.

What inspired you to create an OLE and why was this important to you?
When I was approached about creating an OLE, l just assumed I would be enhancing my existing playground. After attending several orientation meetings, I realized that the OLE project reminded me of my childhood experiences and playing with nature. The project will allow me to educate as well as address the importance of physical activity and making healthier choices around food.

Each OLE is unique; tell us about yours.
Our OLE consists of an infant/toddler and preschool area. We have 8 Learning centers. There is minimal climbing equipment. We have built 8 raised beds, an herb garden and a butterfly garden.

What impact has the OLE had on the children you serve?
Attitudes have changed about food and the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables. The children naturally enjoy the various opportunities for exploration on the playground. 

What advice do you have for an organization that would like to install an OLE?
My first piece of advice would be this: make sure the organization is committed to the process. There needs to be a buy-in from all employees. We learned that it is a changing environment; you must be prepared to go with the changes. The upkeep can be demanding and there is a financial responsibility, too. Overall, it adds value and is a great selling tool when promoting our Early Learning Center.
The First Day of School Jitters

Follow these tips from NAEYC to help make your child's transition to Pre-K a smooth one.

  1. Visit your local library during a read-aloud time so your child gets used to hearing someone other than Mom, Dad, or Grandpa read aloud.
  2. Establish a routine of "early to bed" and “school wake-up time” several weeks before school begins so your child has time to adjust to the new schedule.
  3. Arrange play dates with children who will be in your child’s class. Usually moms or dads go along on these early play dates. Ask the teacher or school for a list of children who will be in your child’s class. 
  4. If there’s a home visit or school visiting day, make sure you and your child participate. If you aren't able to participate, call the school to arrange for a visit to the school and to meet your child’s teacher.
  5. Tell stories about when you went to school and share how you felt about it. Find childhood pictures of yourself and other adults in your child’s life and talk about the photos.
  6. If your child has never before been cared for by someone else, start to leave him/her for short periods of time with friends or relatives. Reinforce the fact that you will return and that s/he is safe with others.
Meet the Smart Start Team

Say hello to our MECK Pre-K Director, Trinisha Dean.
What is your role at Smart Start of Mecklenburg County?
I am the Director of Mecklenburg County’s Pre-Kindergarten Program - MECK Pre-K. In this new and very exciting position, I am responsible for the recruitment, enrollment and placement of 600 four year old children residing in Mecklenburg County. I also work closely with the child center directors who house the 33 MECK Pre-K classrooms located in high-quality child care centers.

How long have you been with the organization?
Although I have worked for Smart Start funded programs for 10 years, I have been employed with Smart Start of Mecklenburg County for one month and counting .
What is one thing you have learned in this job that you wish more people knew?
I wish more families understood the importance of ensuring their child show up to kindergarten academically and developmentally prepared. In my position as the Director of MECK Pre-K, I get to share with families the wonderful news that their child has qualified to be served through our pre-kindergarten program.

What is your favorite thing to do around Charlotte?
I enjoy eating seafood at various restaurants around Charlotte, shopping at my favorite clothing stores and going horseback riding from time to time  

What is your favorite childhood book?
My all-time favorite children’s book is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
Applications Due Soon!

Apply by August 15 for the chance to be awarded a monthly stipend for your child care facility.
The Smart Start Rewarding Excellence Program offers monthly awards to four- and five-star child care facilities. Once selected, participating facilities will receive an award amount each month for the fiscal year as long as they continue to meet program requirements.

Recipients of the award will be responsible for using the award money to maintain and improve the quality of early care and education provided for children 0-5 enrolled in their program. Awards may be used for staff awards, health insurance & retirement, classroom materials, and/or curriculum materials and training.

Click the button below to learn more about the eligibility requirements, restrictions and to download the application.
Volunteer With Us

Want to make a positive impact on your community but don't know where to start? We can help with that.
Several new and exciting initiatives are making waves in our community and we need your help to make them all happen! Make a difference in the lives of our city's youngest children by joining us for:

MECK Pre-K Events
Join our Community Enrollment events to help families apply for the MECK Pre-K program. Volunteers work with families to help them understand eligibility requirements, fill out paperwork and acquire the necessary documentation.

Dolly Parton Imagination Library Sign Up Events
Help us get free books into the hands of Mecklenburg County children. Volunteers attend community events, promote this great program and help families enroll onsite.

Meck Basics Campaign Outreach Support
Help us spread the word about our childhood brain development campaign. Volunteer to join our outreach efforts.
Vote For Us!
Help us win up to $25,o00 in grant money.
When we say we'd do anything to help the children in our community, we mean (just about) anything! Including rewriting the words to the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" theme song and performing it in hopes of winning up to $25,000 in grant money for our mission. Your vote could help us win! From August 15th-30th, click the button below to watch our 60 second video and to cast your vote!
Funded Program Spotlight
Thompson Child & Family Focus - Family Education and Support

Thompson Child & Family Focus provides a series of education classes, support groups and community referrals to parents of children ages birth to five utilizing the Making Parenting a Pleasure (0-2), the Incredible Years: BASIC Parent Training Program (3-5), and the Circle of Parents, Family Support groups model (0-5). Parents from Mecklenburg County participate in role-playing/group discussion and practice activities within sessions and at home to learn additional approaches to supporting positive parenting outcomes.
Click here to learn more about Thompson Child & Family Focus' Family Education and Support services.
6800 St. Peter's Lane | Matthews, NC 28105
Smart Start of Mecklenburg County administers approximately $22 million a year in state, county and private funds to programs serving children birth to age five, their families, and their caregivers in Mecklenburg County. 

Thank You!

Thank you for all you do to ensure that ALL children in Mecklenburg County enter school healthy and ready to succeed!