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Marlene Mack is an educator, entrepreneur, artist, and early childhood champion. For over twenty-five years she has owned and directed the One Step Ahead Learning and Performing Arts Center (OSALC) in East Orange, New Jersey.

Marlene Mack was born in Montclair, NJ, and raised in the city of Newark, NJ. She is a graduate of Malcolm X Shabazz High School. She attended South Carolina State University where she pursued a degree in Special Education. While in college, she pledged to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and was active in basketball, softball, and the debate club. She is best known for making history by being the first to win Miss South Carolina State Homecoming Queen two years in a row.

After the birth of her children, Marlene started her in-home daycare. Not only was she able to take care of her children at home, but she opened her home and took everyone else’s children that she could provide for. That was 27 years ago, and she is still in the business of providing parents “peace of mind” while they are at work. The center is considered a “home away from home” offering a specialized approach to parents and students rooted in creativity and empowerment.

While academics rule the day, after three o’clock there is a plethora of extracurricular activities for the children to choose from. At OSALC, children are given the option to take hip hop, ballet, tap lessons, cooking lessons, karate classes, science club, and sign language, along with the performing arts program.

Marlene incorporated performing arts into her curriculum in 2005 after witnessing how much the children enjoyed listening to and singing songs from different decades. The performing arts program builds confidence and self-esteem. Marlene has put on annual Christmas Concerts, Black History Shows and Plays, annual Talent Shows, and Fashion Shows showcasing children ages 2 to 13 years old. These shows are attended by hundreds of parents and feature students performing music hits from the 1960s through today, in full costume. The children have their own stylist, wardrobe manager, stage manager, vocal coach, portable dressing rooms, etc. The children practice their routines daily to have an amazing performance during the shows. Through the talent shows, some of the children have been requested to perform at different venues and have been compensated for their performances which can be viewed on YouTube as viewed by thousands. Recently, America’s Got Talent called to inquire about the performances that were viewed at one of these venues.

Marlene has won several awards such as “Support and Achievement for Serving Others” by the G.A.L, “Best Teacher Award for Devotion and Commitment to the Teaching Professional”, “Boss of the Year 2018”, “2007 Best Day Care KISS FM Choice Award” and “The Networking Gala – Malaysia Arts Award for Innovation and Excellence” in 2017 just to name a few. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the Association for Early Learning. Marlene holds a United States Patent for the invention called the Bottlemals, which encourages children to drink more water. In January 2024, she received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award signed by President Joe Biden. She also received a Doctrine of Humanitarian Award.

She shares her life with her four children, Willie, Brittany, Brianna, and Bria, and her dog, Sassy. Her motto is – “Christ and Education Make A Great Combination”. Currently, Marlene is in the process of opening her second location in Newark, New Jersey. She will be the only Early Childhood Performing Arts and Learning Center in Gateway One. Even with opening a second location, in a different city, Marlene’s motto will forever be the same – Christ and Education Makes a Great Combination.

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