Burlington’s Mary Ann Pereira loves her job. You can see it in how her eyes sparkle when she talks about her clients. You can hear it in her voice when she leads her students in song. You can’t miss the smile that brightens her face when she congratulates a child on an achievement.
Pereira is founder and owner of , located at 9A Bedford Street, just to the left of .
Pereira holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of Massachusetts, and has taken post graduate classes at Leslie College, Wheelock College and UMass. She has worked for years in various pre-school and special needs programs including the Discovery pre-school run by the Burlington Recreation department and the kindergarten program for Knowledge Beginnings.
“I was always carrying my equipment around with me to enhance the programs where I taught,” explained Pereira. “It was time to find a place of my own.”
Echo Enrichment, which opened in the summer of 2008, serves a diverse clientele from two year olds conquering the intricacies of “The Wheels on the Bus,” to special needs adults relaxing and socializing on Saturday nights.
According to Pereira, whose husband Carlos also works at Echo Enrichment, her team focuses on the whole family.
“We are very family-oriented,” said Pereira. “We get to know the parents and we provide resources for them too.”
The approach is working according to Burlington mother Ankita, whose 2-year-old daughter attends classes at Echo.
“My daughter loves coming here, and Marianne is like family,” she said.
Echo Enrichment stands apart from many programs for the wide breadth of clients that it serves. Echo offers morning classes for pre-schoolers, afternoon enrichment classes for children in elementary school and weekend social opportunities for special needs teens and adults.
Burlington mother Christine Curtin says Echo has been great for her son.
"My son Michael has been going to Echo Saturday night socials for two years. Each social has a great theme and MaryAnn and her family, husband Carlos and son Kyle, are wonderful. It is hard to find programs for teenagers and young adults with special needs. Michael always has a big smile on his face when he goes, because this is his program,” said Curtin.
Pereira is also proud that she is often able to combine groups of clients. Some of her adult students volunteer with the younger children and one volunteer has landed a part time job at the school, helping out with pre-school classes. In the future, Pereira hopes to provide intergenerational programs by inviting grandparents or other local seniors to participate in classes
Pereira’s husband Carlos joined Echo in June 2010 and handles administration and building maintenance.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to help someone,” said Carlos Pereira. “You see these kids and you realize how great life is.”
Carlos and Mary Ann have also provided scholarships for needy families so they can continue coming to the center during times of economic hardship.
“We don’t want them to stop coming,” said Carlos. “What’s one more?”
The Pereiras have lived and worked in Burlington for 14 years. They have one son who also contributes to the family run business, along with members of his Boy Scout troop 103. In any given week, Echo Enrichment serves between 120-130 families, 80 percent of which are Burlington residents. Pereira personally teaches every class.
You can learn more about Echo Enrichment at www.echoenrichment.com.