At Duolingo, one of our key operating principles is “Learners First.” Everything we do should serve our global learner community—and that includes our neighbors in Pittsburgh! We support our local community through efforts like yearly grants to community artists and opening a local taqueria to create jobs and help our neighbors practice language. And this year, we’re excited to announce our first-ever signature impact program that combines our love for learners and our commitment to Pittsburgh. Introducing: Early Learners First.

Our headquarters reside in East Liberty, which is also the epicenter of some of the highest need communities in the city. That’s why we have pledged $1 million a year towards ensuring greater access to quality early childhood education and care, and strengthening Pittsburgh’s early care and education system through Early Learners First. With this new program, we plan to invest in local childcare programs to help them motivate and retain staff, and adopt sustainable business practices. And by helping childcare centers cover these operational costs, we will hopefully increase availability to high quality early education for our youngest learners in Pittsburgh.

After evaluating eligibility, 9 programs met our criteria for initial grants, and were invited to apply for support. Those selected for the program will receive up to $80,000 to assist them in meeting the true cost of care, which can include expenses like staff benefits and facility improvements, which allows them to welcome more children to their programs. We will also partner with other organizations to offer business coaching to the grant winners, and eventually plan to offer tuition grants to qualified families.

We’re thrilled to announce the 9 centers who will receive funding: Brightside Academy Early Education-East Liberty, Child’s Way, Davis Family Childcare, Eastminster Child Care, Homewood-Brushton YWCA, Hope Academy Powered by Hosanna House, McCoy’s Learning Center, LLC, Mt. Ararat Early Childhood Development Center, and Shady Lane School. We’re grateful to these providers for the work they’ve already done to provide high-quality care and education for their children, and to our partners for their support in this groundbreaking initiative!

Your questions about Early Learners First, answered:

What were the eligibility requirements for the program?
In order to be eligible for phase 1 of this program, child care providers had to receive a Star 3 or 4 rating through Pennsylvania’s Quality Rating and Improvement System, Keystone STARS, and operate in one of the neighboring zip codes near the Duolingo headquarters in Pittsburgh.

How did you know you’d find enough eligible programs in Pittsburgh?
In fact, many programs in Pittsburgh have achieved a high-quality designation. They’re simply not able to operate at full capacity for various reasons. For one, state funding doesn’t fully cover expenses like staff benefits (ie., health insurance), salary increases (average wage in Pennsylvania is $12.69), and facility improvements. This further exacerbates the challenges local families face when seeking affordable, quality and accessible early learning.

Why not provide assistance directly to families?
We’ve decided to prioritize business stabilization funding first, and then increase the number of child care seats in order to create a responsible, long-term pathway for impact.

Does Duolingo have other community-based social impact programs we should know about?
Yes! Our social impact efforts primarily focus on three key areas: funding local artists, supporting organizations aligned with our mission through financial and in-kind donations, and connecting Duolingo staff to volunteer opportunities. We support local organizations like the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Catapult Pittsburgh, 412 Food Rescue, Hello Neighbor, Casa San Jose and more. This includes sponsorships, donations of laptops, clothing, food, and other needed items.

To learn more about our partners, check out:

Early Excellence Project
Trying Together