The visionary folks in a First Presbyterian Church Sunday school class filled a community gap some five decades ago by launching a program aimed at providing high-quality early learning and care for the underserved children of Amarillo.

That was on Monroe Street in February of 1969, and while a few things have changed over the ensuing years, the ministry eventually blossomed into Opportunity School with a multi-generational focus of working to ensure success for children and families in school and in life.

According to the organization’s website, work focuses on helping parents and families be their child’s best teacher and advocate, a process that continues from their arrival at the school until their graduation to the next level of education.

Opportunity School is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, continuing to impact people and changing the trajectory of the community one person at a time. The organization recently took time out to enjoy reaching the milestone with an event that moved inside First Presbyterian because of threatening weather. As organizers pointed out, it was a chance to recognize families from the past and present as well as celebrate the contributions of employees, founders and board members.

According to our story last week, the organization now has a staff of 18, the capacity to serve 96 students, including young children in its Early Head Start program who are living with their mothers at the Gratitude House of the Downtown Women’s Center.

It has been a slow and steady labor of love with a passion for excellence for Opportunity School, where its emphasis on early learning prepares preschoolers for the expectations and rigors of school. The school serves children ages six weeks to 5 years old.

“We’re nationally accredited,” Vonda Grantham, child care director at Opportunity School, said in our story. “We get them ready for the AISD. Once children start here, they generally stay until they’re ready to go off to AISD.”

The school offers morning and afternoon sessions to students throughout Amarillo. As our story pointed out, parents are charged a sliding scale, income-based cost.

It is virtually impossible to measure the impact of 50 years of education and ministry upon a community. Research demonstrates how critical a child’s first five years of life are in terms of learning, emotional anchoring and social skills. The youngsters who have come through the doors of Opportunity School have had their lives changed through the power of education, preparing them for a lifetime of the joy that comes from learning.

“Our classrooms are small so we get that one-to-one interaction with the children,” Opportunity School pre-kindergarten teacher Veronica Rosas said in our story. “We work as a team trying to make sure our children get what they need because they are our number one priority.”

We congratulate Opportunity School on this achievement. Some 50 years ago, such an endeavor was dramatically ahead of its time. Thankfully, the foresight of 1969 continues to translate into tangible results for children today.

There are few more rewarding undertakings than investing in the success of a child. To the leaders and staff at Opportunity School, thank you for your commitment of the past, present and future to the children of Amarillo.

Here’s to your next 50 years.