Kids who go to Pre-K are ready when they start kindergarten and do better in school. The Paterson Alliance in Paterson, NJ embarked on a multi-year campaign to raise awareness and attendance in the city’s free quality pre-k programs. The message was simple: Think Pre-K!

We started the effort with community engagement across the city with parents, caregivers and education specialists at early childhood education centers. We learned that the biggest challenge to participation was lack of awareness of free, quality programming – and presumptions that pre-k was little more than babysitting of young children. Through this community feedback and creative message & image testing we recommended:

  • Public Awareness Campaign: Think Pre-K, including traditional placement outreach and direct grassroots organizing to increase word-of-mouth information.
  • Multi-lingual Collateral Material in English, Spanish, Bengali & Arabic – the top 4 languages spoken by Paterson residents.
  • “Pre-K Navigators” staffed positions of trained and paid organizers in each ward of Paterson NJ to reach people directly – with coverage of all 4 languages.
  • Website hub for information, direct contact with Navigators and access to register for pre-k programs.
  • Flyer advertising pre-k
  • Flyer advertising pre-k translated into Spanish
  • Flyer advertising pre-k translated into Arabic
  • Flyer advertising pre-k translated into Bengali

Our goal for the first 6-month outreach? We set out to tap 6 outreach channels and reach at least 600 families in Paterson with the Think Pre-K message. Through a direct grassroots strategy and newly available direct mail options that didn’t break the budget, the campaign reached more than 20,000 people through 7 outlets.


  • Pre-K enrollment in Paterson increased by 337 students – more than 300% of the goal to increase by 100 students
  • Vacant slots were reduced by 66% – from 451 to 143
  • Overall pre-K enrollment increased from 70% to 77% citywide