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Our History

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 Trinity Lutheran Church

Dover, NJ 


  • El Primer Paso was founded in Dover by a group of volunteers to prepare local Hispanic children for a demanding public school curriculum through a developmentally appropriate preschool program provided within a multicultural, bilingual environment.  The program is housed first in a space loaned by Trinity Lutheran Church and then in quarters provided by Holy Rosary Church.

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 Holy Rosary Church Dover, NJ 

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 St. Mary’s School in Denville, NJ 


  • El Primer Paso was established as a legal corporation with the help of funds donated through St. Mary’s School in Denville.



  • El Primer Paso appoint Mrs. Jean Seavey, one of the founders, as the first Executive Director.


   The growth of El Primer Paso’s         programs continued throughout         this decade adding:

  • Adult English as a Second Language classes for parents and community members.

  • A preschool program for three-year-olds, “La Escuelita”.

  • Sponsorship of Family Childcare homes, providing training for caregivers and support for working parents outside of school hours.

  • Participation in the NJ Dept. of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program for both the preschool and family childcare homes, ensuring nutritionally balanced meals and snacks at no cost to families.

Adult Students


  • The popularity and impact of El Primer Paso’s programs continued, with the result that the school outgrew its home in the facility provided by Holy Rosary Church.  A capital campaign was initiated with the help of United Way of Morris County, raising over $450,000 to purchase and renovate a large Victorian home close to the intersection of Route 46 and Mount Hope Avenue.

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  • El Primer Paso’s new home at 29 Segur Street opened in November 2000.  The completely renovated building provides two dividable preschool classrooms, bathrooms, and a full kitchen on the first floor with two adult classrooms, teacher preparation space, and offices on the second floor.  A fenced-in playground provides a large, safe space for outdoor play and learning. 


  • In 2004, the preschool earned accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a prestigious benchmark of quality that set El Primer Paso apart from other preschools in the area.  And, in May of 2009, when NAEYC developed a set of new, more rigorous standards, El Primer Paso became one of the first programs in the nation to earn this accreditation.


  • In 2006, a capital grant from the Hyde Watson Foundation provided funds to update the facility’s exterior walkways, ramps, and wraparound porch with safe, low-maintenance materials, while maintaining its historic character.

  • In 2006, El Primer Paso expands its offerings to meet the needs of working parents with the addition of a six-week (later extended to eight weeks) Summer Literacy and Enrichment Program.

  • Also in 2006, El Primer Paso entered into a multi-year cooperative agreement with the Wharton Borough Public Schools to help provide preschool services to some of the district’s children.


  • In 2012, in response to the needs of working parents, El Primer Paso added a full day program to its traditional 2, 3, or 4 day a week AM/PM classes.

  • Between 2014 and 2017, options for wraparound childcare were added, first Aftercare and later Early Care.  El Primer Paso now provides care from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. to meet community needs.



  • In 2013-14 El Primer Paso participated in the pilot of New Jersey’s early childhood Quality Rating Improvement System, Grow NJ Kids.  The school has since been rated as a high-quality program with renewed rating every three years.  Grow NJ Kids provides ongoing support for continuous quality improvement through professional development and technical assistance.


  • In 2015 El Primer Paso entered into an agreement with the Dover Public Schools to serve some of Dover’s preschool children, particularly those with special needs, in inclusive classes.

El Primer Paso looks forward in 2023:

As El Primer Paso looks toward the future, it is time once again to consider expanding our facility to enable the school to participate in the state-funded preschool expansion which has recently come to Dover.  Although El Primer Paso’s current home has served us well for twenty - three years, new state standards require larger classroom spaces which cannot be provided in the present facility.  Our plan is to continue to provide services at 29 Segur Street, while raising funds and planning for a new facility which will enable us to bring our programs not only to Dover’s children but to neighboring towns as well.  We invite all our friends and alumni to join us in this expansion effort.  Please call the Executive Director at 973-361-0880 if you would like to donate or volunteer to help.

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