WAXHAW — When Iyore Ojomo was growing up in Nigeria, one of the values her mother stressed was that of a good education.
“My mom is really into education. When I was growing up, life these days has really changed, when I was growing up you didn’t have a choice if you’re going to college or not, your only choice is which college, which university are you going to,” said Ojomo, who moved to the United States in 2000. “I’m from a large family, my mom has nine of us, I’m the seventh, and that was how I was raised. Education was a major part in our lives when we were growing up and my mom made you know that. That’s one thing she was good at. She worked in the department of education for 37 years in Nigeria, and that’s one thing she never played with. It was a big thing for her.”
Having grown up with that mentality, when Ojomo (whose first name is pronounced Yuree) started looking for schools for her children, she was disappointed with the options and decided to open her own learning center where children not only are prepared to enter school, but also learn how to be kind to others through a faith-based curriculum.
“A lot of the child care centers in this area were using a creative curriculum, so I wanted something that actually teaches them about getting ready for school and at the same time teaches the Bible faith,” Ojomo said. “That was one thing missing from some child care centers in the area and I wanted that.”
And so in 2007, Ojomo opened Children’s Lighthouse Learning Center in Matthews, and later opened one in Indian Trail. At the end of July, she’ll open up her third center just 5 miles from her home in Waxhaw.
Nigeria’s population is 55 percent Muslim and only about 35 percent Christian, with the others being pagan, but Ojomo was raised in a Christian home and her mother was a deacon in the church.
“I grew up with the Bible as my faith and I wanted the same for my kids,” Ojomo said.
But aside from teaching lessons from the Bible, by the time a student graduates from Pre-K at Ojomo’s Children’s Lighthouse Learning Center, they can read simple words, know the alphabet and can count and write their numbers up to 100.
“It makes it easier for their kindergarten teachers,” Ojomo said.
The teachers at Ojomo’s centers all have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood development.
“We’re a five-star center, which is the highest rating in North Carolina, and the state actually rates the teachers,” Ojomo said.
The school takes children ages infant to 5 and then has an after-school program for students ages 5 to 12. Each center has about 200 students and 29 teachers.
And that five-star rating is something Ojomo takes seriously, which is why she’s no absentee owner.
“I’m there every day,” she said. “When parents want to talk I’m there, I know what’s going on in my center. I split my day between the two centers now, so when the third center comes along, I’ll split my time between three centers. I’m not one of those owners that hardly go to the center. I go every single day unless I’m on vacation and then I’m out of town. And that’s rare.”
Ojomo also has three young sons, ages 8, 6 and 5, which keep her busy, but she said she’s excited about taking on a third center.
“The new center, I think I’m just very emotional about it because it’s close to my home and it’s nice when I go into the Target in Matthews and I can’t seem to walk by because all the kids that have been in my center since they were little, I see them and they’re like 4 or 5 now and they say ‘Hey, Ms. Iyore,’ it’s so funny,” she said. “It’s like I have almost 400 kids and I call them my children and at the same time I have my three little ones. It’s nice.”
To learn more about Children’s Lighthouse Learning Center, visit www.childrenslighthouse.com.