Kiana Davis and Briana Lattimore met in preschool. Eighteen years later, they’re still there.
No, they don’t keep flunking milk-and-crackers.
Kiana and Briana are a success story of Children on the Green. The program at the Morristown United Methodist Church celebrates its 18th anniversary in September, and these young ladies were infants in the inaugural Class of ’94.
They enjoyed their preschool years so much that they returned to Children on the Green as part-time employees while attending Morristown High School. The experience has inspired them to pursue careers that help children–Kiana as a school counselor, Briana as a pediatrician.
“I feel really welcome here. I know everybody. It’s my second home. I go to church here,” said Kiana, who is bound for Montclair State University this fall.
“I love the diversity. And the teachers are amazing,” said Briana, who is headed for the County College of Morris and then, she hopes, for Rutgers.
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When they came to Children on the Green as newborns, the nonprofit program served about 30 kids. It has more than doubled in size, with 74 children, 14 full-time staff, nine part-timers and an operating budget of $750,000, said Co-Director Andrew Cattano.
Weekday sessions run from 6:30 am to 6 pm, for children between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 years. Summer sessions accept children up to age 8. Tuition is $1,400 a month for infants and $1,000 a month for older preschoolers. Vouchers and grants defray costs for some children. Six slots are set aside for children from Family Promise of Morris County, Homeless Solutions Inc. and the Jersey Battered Women’s Service.
Andrew remembers Kiana and Briana as independent little girls with contrasting styles.
“Briana was always in the middle of stuff, she was a little more hands-on,” he said. “Kiana was on the outside, watching. I’m very proud of both of them. They’re still friends. Lifetime friends are hard to find these days.”
They forged such a close bond in their formative years at Children on the Green that Kiana’s playmates had to beware the “overprotective” Briana.
“She used to bite people who played with me!” Kiana said with a laugh.
Roles are reversed now, according to Briana, who claims to have become shy while Kiana is the bold one.
Not bold enough to bite anyone, as far as we know. But Kiana showed her fearlessness before a packed house at this year’s Morristown’s Got Talent show, where she sang and danced with the ensemble Top Hat. She also has performed in productions with ARTS! By the People, and she sings in the church choir.
Kiana Davis performing with Top Hat at Morristown’s Got Talent!
Briana was a member of the drill team at MHS, where she also sang in the choir and acted in Girls Surviving, a troupe that explores the challenges facing teenaged girls.
As workers at Children on the Green, Kiana and Briana have learned the art of the diaper, and the science of kid-control.
“Some are best friends. Others know how to push each other’s buttons. The ones who don’t get along, you have to keep them separate,” said Kiana.
Teamwork is essential.
“You learn how to work on a team, how to perform under pressure,” Kiana said. “When kids all are hyper at once, it can be overwhelming. You learn to keep it together.”
For the most part, she has fun, and said she misses the kids when she is away for any extended period.
Briana, who is one of six siblings in her family, said Children on the Green has taught her to chill.
“Before I worked here, I really wasn’t patient with kids,” she said. “I am now.”