Giving Children Opportunities Opens Doors

Ali Eger is the executive director of Opportunity Early Childhood Education & Family Center, a Palm Beach County-based non-profit that has been working to help low-income children and their families for more than 75 years.

Since 1939, Opportunity has offered high quality development programs to preschool aged children and support services to their families. As the organization’s executive director, Eger oversees the education of 96 children, while also organizing programs that support their parents.

There are more than 300 children waiting to join the program. The non-profit recently launched a capital campaign called Opportunity Knocks to build a larger school on a new campus and create an endowment to support a increased enrollment.

Name: Ali Eger

Hometown: Springfield, Illinois

Where you live now: Palm Beach Gardens

About your company: Opportunity Early Childhood Education & Family Center has been involved in the education and development of children from low-income families since 1939. We believe that building a stronger community begins with helping children succeed. We know that our children are strengthened when we provide targeted programs that support their families.

How your business has changed: While our goal of addressing poverty in our community has not changed, Opportunity’s approach to accomplishing that goal has changed. Opportunity has evolved from simply providing childcare for working parents to a center that provides quality educational experiences for the children and supportive programs for their families. This approach addresses current needs and creates the foundation for future success that will eliminate generational poverty.

First paying job and what you learned from it: My first paying job was babysitting. It taught me that each child has unique strengths and needs. Children never cease to amaze me.

First break in the business: I took some time off from my career in finance when my son had neurosurgery at age 6 months. During that time, I volunteered at his preschool and fell in love with early childhood education and children’s brain development. Luckily, when it was time to return to work, the school asked me to come on board as the preschool director.

Best business book you ever read: Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky A. Bailey. It focuses on developing resiliency, coping skills, and overall emotional wellness in young children. The book shares how creating a sense of respect and community within a classroom are the keys to educating young children.

Best piece of business advice you ever received: There is always room for improvement!

What you tell young people about your business: Early childhood development is not babysitting. You are influencing how a child will approach learning for the rest of their lives. A management career in early childhood education and nonprofit leadership carries enormous responsibility, with the most amazing rewards.

What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County?

Palm Beach County has already demonstrated a keen understanding of the importance of early childhood education and the role it plays in improving our community. 

I see that trend continuing and Opportunity playing an even larger a role in demonstrating how to approach child development and the impact of quality preschool education, specifically for children with limited access.

Where we can find you when you are not at the office: When I am not at Opportunity, I am usually spending time with my family, at the gym, playing tennis, or relaxing on the beach with a good book.

Favorite smartphone app: It’s hard to choose just one, I love Goodreads, MyFitnessPal, Daily Vroom and Yummly

What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? One of the critical traits I look for is a sense of humor. If you can laugh when a child redirects the lesson plan you worked on for hours, it shows me that you are patient, can be flexible, have an open mind and embrace creativity. You need all those qualities to work with children.