Nora Stewart Early Learning Center
Nora Stewart was founded in 1933 by the incomparable Ms. Amanda Estes. It was the very first nursery school in the city of Columbia to serve African Americans. The school, then known as Negro Nursery School, opened December 1, 1933 in a small four-room house on Park Street. At that time, it served 16 children. In less than one year, however, enrollment increased to 35 children. In the 1940s, the school moved into a house Ms. Estes inherited from her foster mother, Ms. Nora Stewart. Under the direction of Ms. Mary Jane Davis, who took over for Ms. Estes upon her retirement in 1965, the house was expanded in 1976. This provided additional classrooms, restrooms, storage and offices. Today, it still resides at this same location, on the corner of 5th and Ash, serving over 50 children ages two to ten every day.
While the primary mission of Nora Stewart is to provide an educational facility for children ages six weeks to ten years of age, it also provides a safe and nurturing environment on a sliding scale for children whose families would not otherwise be able to afford care. Children are supported with proper nutrition and a strong academic curriculum emphasizing reading, math, and other critical skills.
In 2008, as we celebrated our 75th birthday, we also received funding or a complete renovation of our kitchen, expansion of our adult restroom to be ADA compliant, new floor coverings, and a myriad of other upgrades. In 2010, the facility was able to expand with an addition of an infant room. In 2012, we received funding to remodel the children's restrooms, purchase new cubbies, and paint the facility. There will more upgrades coming soon!