Starling School and Daycare: 40 years and counting

Starling School Children Singing

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — For four decades, Starling School and Day Care Center has been educating children. From doctors, lawyers, pastors, city councilmembers and school board administrators, this institution has started them all out in life with a good foundation.

The graduating class of 2014 held its ceremony Sat., April 12 at Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church. Twenty-six families had the privilege to watch their children graduate from such a historical establishment.

Pinellas County School Board member Renee Flowers was on hand to say a few words about her alma mater and Pastor Dexter McCree, of Anointed Word Fellowship, gave the commencement speech. He recalled that his first job was at the Starling school and he challenged the audience to be supportive of each other and to continue supporting their young graduates as they move on through the school system.

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The graduates showcased “Our Day at Starling School” demonstrating Pledge of Allegiance, songs including “Jesus Loves Me” (the remix), bible trivia, circle time and The Final Hour. Rituals such as these have been practiced since the inception of the school in 1974.

Years ago, the late Jimmy Lee Sr. and Viola Starling moved to St. Petersburg from Cuthbert, Ga., trusting in God and maintaining a strong faith that they could start a family and life together here in the Sunshine City. After having six children, Viola embarked upon her dream of not just caring for her kids, but for providing a quality childcare program to all children in her community.

After completing Gibbs Jr. College, she decided to find a banker who would finance her dream. She walked and walked to most of the banks in downtown St. Pete and although rejected by five of them, her faith would not let her stop seeking her vision.

She eventually found a banker who believed in her vision and in 1974 Starling School and Day Care was created on the foundation of Proverbs 22:6, which states: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” That lesson is still being taught today to all the children they serve.

Throughout the decades, Starling grew to four locations in St. Pete educating thousands of youths. They continue to provide affordable childcare services for toddlers, preschool and school age children year round. They currently have 80 children enrolled at 615 28th St. S.

With 80 children currently enrolled, they have been blessed to have continuous enrollment from former parents who are bringing their children back through Starling School.

Their mission is to provide a loving, learning environment with varied opportunities for educational, social, emotional and physical development for every child and student. They pride themselves on making better citizens for the entire community.

Whereas Jimmy Lee Sr. and Viola Starling have passed on, there is four generations of family members in the business today who continues to follow their vision and keep their legacy alive.

“It’s very humbling having the support of the community and our parents at the graduation,” said Jennifer Howard-Black, director of Starling School and Daycare Center. “To look out and see so many people, which represent the lives that we’ve touched is very humbling.”

At the Starling school, children will receive a solid foundation and a great start in the education process. Their children are prepared when they go on to the next phase. “We’ll continue to strive for excellence, serve our families and be present in the community,” finished Howard-Black.

For more information on enrolling your child, please visit starlingschool.org.

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