For more than ten years, Kim Palmer has provided access to affordable, quality language immersion programming for infants and toddlers through Bilingual Academy Memphis (BAM). As Kim puts it, her own son’s experiences were the inspiration for the educator to open her own bilingual center, “My son’s godparents are from Chile and Costa Rica. They taught him Spanish at an early age.” Through this experience, she explains, “I saw the need for everyday people to be able to afford for their children to learn a second language.” So in 2005 she opened BAM to serve a need of providing access to bilingual immersion. But rent was an ever increasing problem for keeping costs affordable, so in 2015 she was set out to purchase the property she had rented for years.
“One of the biggest obstacles for us was trying to get financed. Being a small business with one owner, it was difficult. HOPE provided us with necessary funds to purchase the building, which saves us from paying the additional fees we were paying, including rent, insurance, and other costs. It also locks us into a loan at an affordable rate,” said Kim.
With HOPE’s assistance, BAM purchased the land and the building that they had previously leased. Their location in their community is a treasured resource. As the Hispanic population in Memphis has more than doubled in the last decade, BAM plays a meaningful role for Spanish-speaking families. As Kim puts it, “To be able to bring their children here and be able to communicate with staff, this is very important.” All the staff at BAM speak Spanish and English. She currently has ten teachers and caregivers on staff, and they all receive additional training in partnership with the Department of Human Services and other community resources to help them further their education.
The site has a maximum capacity of 97 children. As their current enrollment is 75, there is room to grow, and they plan to add three more staff positions in the future.
BAM was one of the first projects closed through the Wells Fargo DCC. Through the program, HOPE received a $2 million grant to expand its financing activities for minority- and women-owned businesses. The investment in BAM supported through this project will both create additional employment opportunities and additional slots in its bilingual immersion program.
(Date of loan: 2015. Date of story publication: Dec. 2016)