Laurie Peterson had a successful career working with nonprofit organizations and as a tournament director for the Ladies Professional Golf Association. But she wanted more than just the satisfaction of having an event run smoothly.
She wanted to score a (w)hole-in-one.
That ace came in the form of opening a preschool — Un Mundo de Amigos — more than a decade ago in central Long Beach at 1480 Long Beach Blvd.
Peterson has focused her time and skills to provide free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, providing more than 140 spaces in a high-need area. For her efforts, Peterson will be honored at The Mayor’s Summer Internship Reception next Thursday, Sept. 26. The reception is from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Bob Foster Civic Chambers, 411 W. Ocean Blvd. Beside Peterson, the mayor will also commend Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, Long Beach Fire Chief Xavier Espino and student interns from Cal State Long Beach, Long Beach City College and the Long Beach Unified School District.
Un Mundo de Amigos was born from two empty car lots to serve young children and help them prepare for kindergarten and elementary school.
“I realized that not every child had the same beginnings as my son did,” Peterson said. “Many of these children might never learn the basic skills required to transition to kindergarten and research shows that we can predict by the third grade, that children who do not attend preschool and become below-basic readers are significantly more likely to be high school dropouts.”
Peterson is insistent that every child is entitled to an education; that it is a right, not a privilege. She said she believes it is her generation’s responsibility to give back to children and create a better world for them.
“For me, it was time to give back to the community,” she said. “I care about education from cradle to college, and it can’t stop at preschool.”
But how did Peterson — who lives in Venice — pick Long Beach to be the place for her preschool?
“I didn’t choose Long Beach by chance,” she said. “My husband and I looked at the entire county of Los Angeles and ZIP code 90813 (central Long Beach) had the least preschool spaces per capita for 4-year-olds at the time and the lowest economic standards.”
Peterson continues her commitment through a second preschool campus that just opened at 241 Cedar Ave. in downtown Long Beach.
“Listen, we could not have chosen a better community,” Peterson said. “We have been so blessed. We have third and fourth children go from the same family. We need an educated work force. They work, they pay taxes. They give back.”
For more information on the reception and to RSVP to the event, go to mayorsLBICreception.eventbrite.com.