BY CARISSA IHM
The Mount Mary College Child Care Center is a convenient treasure trove tucked away on the bottom floor of Notre Dame Hall. The few indications that the Child Care Center exists, besides the nameplate, are the colorful handprints on the doorway with children’s names, as well as the children’s playful artwork adorning the walls.
This atmosphere suits Tracie Isaacson, the director of the program, very well. Isaacson not only views the Child Care Center as an enjoyable place for the children, but also an excellent utility for various students.
“We generally serve non-traditional students,” Isaacson said. “But we definitely have some younger, traditional students as well.”
The center serves parents and provides an opportunity for quality child care. This allows the students with children to utilize the center and earn a degree. One such student, Monica Hernandez, is a third-year student and a biology health sciences major. Her 3-year-old daughter, Gloria, is enrolled in the center.
“I use it whenever I have classes,” Hernandez said. “So I’m using it every day of the week.”
This accessibility allows Hernandez to not only provide quality educational child care service for Gloria, but also allows her to dedicate attention to her own studies. The Child Care Center is a pre-school program for children, ages 1-6. Pre-reading and math skills are encouraged by activities and weekly themes such as transportation, farms and families.
“We have tons of art activities daily; we go outside every day,” Isaacson said. “The children have lots of free playtime in the dramatic play area and block area; we have an art area, [and a place for] cars and trucks.”
It’s no wonder why Gloria’s face lit up with a shy, happy smile when asked if she liked the Child Care Center. The children are learning arithmetic, reading, writing and various sciences; they’re also socializing and creating. However, Gloria’s favorite thing about the center isn’t the art or the building blocks.
“My favorite part is reading,” Gloria whispered, twisting slightly as she gripped a book about alphabet soup in her tiny hands.
Reading and socializing with fellow children her age has inspired Gloria to read and develop her ability to speak more than one language.
“I noticed that Gloria didn’t know a lot of English before she got there. I noticed that now she’s speaking English more,” Hernandez said.
Gloria is being introduced to multiple skill sets that will help her develop mentally and socially. One of Hernandez’s favorite things about the Child Care Center is that it teaches her daughter useful behavioral skills that can be further developed at home.
“I think that all the staff are friendly and I like the way that they’re prepared to handle children because they really teach them a lot of skills about what they have to learn, how to share, how to obey rules, and I really love that because it helps me at home with Gloria. I can reinforce what they teach her,” Hernandez said.
Isaacson also tries to introduce the campus to the center, raise awareness of their programs, and the ways the center contributes to the students’ success.
“The one thing we’ve worked on over the four years is improving the quality of the center,” Isaacson said.
She continued, “More recent goals would be helping the college be more aware of us and incorporating our activities with the college activities. We did Christmas caroling last year and we’re bringing professionals and staff down to the center for activities.”
Another example of holiday festivities is trick-or-treating throughout the campus offices. The children dress up in costumes and parade down the halls with their candy pails swaying on little arms.
“The college gives the opportunity to students to have high quality child care for reasonable rates. That’s something so difficult to find,” Isaacson said.