HOLYOKE – True to its mission to provide students with the right resources and support to achieve their goals, Holyoke Community College (HCC) recently celebrated the opening of its Itsy Bitsy Child Watch Center.
Sheila Gould, coordinator of early childhood programs at HCC, said that in 2017 the college embarked on a strategic planning process that focused on the basic needs with which many HCC students go. difficulty. Their findings showed that the main problems for students stemmed from food insecurity, housing insecurity, transportation and childcare.
“Early in this process, as a college, we identified the barriers to success that students were facing,” Gould said. “We [the early education department] had talked about how we could, as early education processions, understand how the college could provide child care to families.
The Itsy Bitsy Child Watch takes its name from the classic nursery rhyme “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, a name also borrowed for Itsy Bitsy Zoomcast, a recorded series focusing on preschool education co-hosted by HCC teachers and staff, and the HCC Early Itsy Bitsy Learning Lab of the Department of Early Childhood Education.
“Itsy bitsy everything,” Gould said. “The name really comes from this idea that small connections create really strong webs. It’s a beautiful community. I graduated from Holyoke High. I took my early education classes at HCC. So running this department and seeing it come to life today means a lot to me personally, just hope it can be an example for other colleges.
Gould said the dean of her department encouraged her to pitch the idea of child care as opposed to full-time child care to HCC President Christina Royal during a session of brainstorming. After the meeting, Royal asked him to submit a formal proposal to present to the cabinet.
Despite a coronavirus pandemic-related delay in the project, Royal was still focused on securing funding for the child monitoring center and wanted to keep the idea alive for the return of students to campus. Funding of $100,000 secured with the help of State Senator John Velis was used to purchase furniture and other utilities for the child monitoring center.
“Traditional child care is when a child signs up for a full-time slot and is there all day and consistently. It’s what you use to go to work and it’s your reliable daily care,” Gould said. “Childcare is a walk-in service. Suppose your typical babysitter is not available that day, you would drop your child off at the HCC babysitter so you can go to class.
Gould added that this resource would be beneficial for evening students, as child care usually does not operate late at night to match when some students are in class.
HCC student Kara Torres is a freshman who tried to make the most of her opportunity. Not only does she have to study for her accounting classes, but she also has a work-study job at the Office of Student Engagement and an internship with the college’s Student Ambassador Mentorship Program.
With all that on her plate in addition to being the mother of 8-year-old twins, it hasn’t always been easy for Torres to navigate.
“When their school is closed for teachers’ duty days or their school holidays don’t coincide with ours, it becomes difficult because it’s me or my wife who has to stay home,” the Holyoke resident said. , 29 years old. A press release. “With my busy schedule, I can’t wait for them to come and participate in this program. If something happens now, I can take my children with me to school. It makes me very excited.
Torres hopes the opening of HCC’s free child monitoring center will help ease the stress and anxiety of being both a parent and a student.
On May 4, the new center held an official ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Royal, joined by Velis and State Representative Patricia Duffy.
“We are delighted to be able to deliver on our promise to focus on the childcare needs of our students,” Royal said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “And that’s what it’s all about today, delivering on that promise to help our student parents succeed while continuing to change their lives through the power of education.”
Velis said during the ribbon cutting that the choice between an education or childcare was a choice students shouldn’t have to make.
“I always say that, but every time I come to HCC, something good happens,” Velis said. “You talk about food insecurity, housing, child care – all important issues. Every time I come here you go to one of them, so kudos to everyone in this room.
Duffy spoke about a recent budget meeting she had at State House with House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, who told her his focus for the fiscal year was workforce development. work and education.
“Well, that’s music to my ears, Mr. President, because my top priority is Holyoke Community College,” Duffy said. “I mean, just the job you [those in attendance of the ribbon-cutting] everyone, your support for our community, your recognition of who our students are and what they need – you help our employers, you help our families. I am so delighted to be here today in this beautiful and bright room.
HCC student parents will be able to begin dropping off their children for childcare on May 24, the first day of summer school. HCC is only the second community college in the state—and the only one in Western Massachusetts—to offer child supervision for its students.