La Casa es su Casa

“In The Company of Young Children”

La Casa es su Casa, La Casa de Don Pedro’s annual cocktails and hors d’oeuvres reception that was originally set to be held in April at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, was transformed into a virtual celebration with an entirely handcrafted short film and digital magazine.

The short film is now available below for your viewing pleasure.

In the Company of Young Children” celebrates La Casa de Don Pedro’s entry into infant and toddler care. Hosted by Dr. Beverly Lynn, CEO of Programs for Parents, the short film features the event’s three honorees, The Maher Charitable Foundation, Samantha Lott-Velez, and Robert L. Johnson, MD, FAAP. La Casa’s Board President, Arcelio Aponte, Executive Director, Raymond Ocasio, and Director of Early Childhood Education, Yun Shin share their perspectives about La Casa’s new impact in infant and toddler care through Early Head Start. Finally, and you’ll hear the voices of families who have benefited from the program and La Casa’s young children in action.



Dr. Beverly Lynn
Chief Executive Officer
Programs for Parents, Inc.


Samantha Lott-Velez

Ms. Lott-Velez has been in the field of education for over 16 years as a parent, teacher, supervisor, and administrator. As a classroom teacher, Ms. Lott-Velez served as chair of school leadership councils and instructional leadership teams that led schools in achieving their Annual Yearly Progress benchmarks. Due to her high rates in student achievement success and community partnership building, Ms. Velez was also rated as a “Distinguished Teacher” during her tenure with Newark Public Schools. In 2011, Ms.Lott-Velez joined the Newark Office of Early Childhood as the supervisor of pre kindergarten curriculum and instruction. She led the school district’s shift in curriculum development to be based on pedagogical practices, instituted a systematic approach to analyze the impact of departmental support to classroom teachers, and co-developed a centralized teacher evaluation system. She also successfully facilitated a $7 million Head Start grant that expanded access to quality early childhood within the District. Today, as Executive Director of the Office of Early Childhood Ms. Velez is guided by her experience two decades ago as a parent of a Head Start child. As a “parent who leads in education,” she values not just the education of children, but bringing value to the whole Newark community by supporting the whole family. This is evident in new parent engagement structures built under her leadership, including supporting parents as thought partners and decision makers at the school and program levels, and a new fatherhood initiative that supports their engagement and leadership in schools, their homes, and within their communities.

Robert L. Johnson, MD, FAAP

Dr. Johnson is The Sharon and Joseph L. Muscarelle Endowed Dean, Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, and Director of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), and the Dean of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS). His clinical expertise and research focuses on adolescent physical and mental health, adolescent HIV, adolescent violence, adolescent sexuality, health equity and family strengthening. Dr. Johnson chairs the New Jersey Governor’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, the Newark Ryan White Planning Council, and the Board of Deacons at Union Baptist Church in Orange, N.J.  He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Vice Chair of the Community Prevention Task Force of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a former member of the Board of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education at the National Academies of Science. He has previously been the President of the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, the Chair of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Council on Graduate Medical Education, a member of the National Council of the National Institute of Mental Health, member of the NIH AIDS Research Council and member, Institute of Medicine, Health Care Services Board.  Dr. Johnson received his BA from Alfred University in 1968 and his MD from the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, NJ in 1972.

Dr. Johnson has become a well-recognized spokesperson for the adolescent and adolescent issues.  He yearly addresses many local, state, national and international audiences and frequently appears on television and radio. He has published widely, and he conducts an active schedule of teaching, research and clinical practice at NJMS.

The Maher Charitable Foundation

The mission of the Maher Charitable Foundation is to improve educational opportunities for financially disadvantaged children in New Jersey.   

Since 2008, the Maher Charitable Foundation has focused most of its investments on early childhood education. The foundation is persuaded by the evidence that starting education early in life yields better outcomes in school and life.  High quality early childhood education helps children develop literacy skills, contributes to their social and emotional well-being, and prepares them for successful entry to kindergarten.  The Foundation has invested in PreK Our Way, the statewide advocacy campaign for expanding high quality PreK to all children who are eligible for it.  The Foundation has also made significant investments in early childhood facilities, including the Birth to Five early childhood facility at the Ironbound Community Corporation and, in partnership with the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation, the renovation of Children’s Day Nursery in Passaic.  The Foundation is currently working with La Casa de Don Pedro and Clinton Hill Community and Early Childhood Center to build a state-of-the art early childhood center in the Clinton Hill section of Newark that will include Early Head Start and New Jersey PreK. Led by Brian Maher, The Maher Charitable Foundation has also supported the work of the D.C.-based Bipartisan Policy Center, which is working with organizations across the country to make high quality early childhood facilities a national priority, especially in the context of infrastructure investments. 

Dr. Beverly Lynn

Dr. Lynn is an innovative leader and effective communicator with more than thirty-five years of progressive public and non-profit sector experience with particular focus on the provision of early education services for infants, toddlers, pre-school and school age children. Intimately familiar with the child care environment in New Jersey, her experience runs the gamut from college level teaching to management and oversight of child care centers and Head Start programs throughout New Jersey. She is known for providing exceptional and cutting-edge services including professional development and technical assistance to child care center staff and to home based providers. She has extensive experience in early childhood policy planning and as a result of this expertise played a significant collaborative role in the implementation of the landmark Abbott reforms designed to address the educational inequities between urban school districts and their more affluent suburban counterparts.

Thank you to La Casa es su Casa “In the Company of Young Children’s” Generous Sponsors

Thank you to “In the Company of Young Children’s” business supporters and all who purchased tickets.

Assemblyman Giblin | Bayshore Recycling | Colonial Life Insurance | Dr. Gayle Griffin | Leadership Newark | Leviticus Fund | Lotus Equity Group | NeighborWorks America | Newark Alliance | Newark Trust for Education | New Jersey Citizen Action | New Jersey Institute of Technology | New Jersey Performing Arts Center | Omni America | Pronesti Surveying | RayZo Marketing | Eltia Montano Galarza | Scalera Consulting Services | Security On Point | Shoprite | Stobbs Printing, Co. | GUbarry, Inc. | UnitedHealthcare

La Casa has been amazing. When my child started coming here, I saw a lot of changes. His speech changed. He talks well now even at two years old. His teachers have been so helpful. One thing I really like about La Casa is how diverse it is. Everybody’s one here. – Adebola Adesemowo, parent of two year old at 201 First Street Early Head Start Center

Looking to support other events in La Casa’s 2020 Special Events Series? Learn more here.