MHCC and Head Start collaborate on a new Early Childhood Center
In September, 2011, 184 young children will be stacking blocks, finger-painting and listening to story time in a brand new, state-of-the-art Early Childhood Center (ECC) – the first new building on the MHCC Gresham Campus in about three decades.
Construction began in December on the 21,000 square foot Center, which will replace a smaller, aging facility.
There are many things that make this project special – from the children who will be ready for school, to the parents whose lives will be transformed, to the MHCC students who will prepare themselves for careers in early childhood education.
Collaboration with Head Start
Watch progress unfold in
this video diary documenting
the construction of our new
Early Childhood Center
Head Start will operate the Center in collaboration with MHCC. (Head Start is a federally-funded program that provides comprehensive child development services to economically disadvantaged children and families.)
Head Start and a companion program, Early Head Start, will meet children’s educational, social, health and nutritional needs.
“By investing in this Center, we are helping to break the cycle of poverty for many children and their families in our service region,” says John J. “Ski” Sygielski, former MHCC president. “Effective early childhood education is a proven strategy in closing the achievement gap and reducing the dropout rate,” continues Sygielski. “By making childcare and other services available on the Gresham Campus, it increases the chances of parents remaining in college so they may graduate and secure gainful employment.”
“The new ECC will provide both Head Start and Early Head Start care to children six months to five-years-old whose parents are enrolled in Head Start. Seven hours per day of childcare services will be available to full-time MHCC students,” says Susan Brady, director of child development and family support programs for the College. “Priority for half-day childcare will be given to part-time MHCC students.”
Will Benefit MHCC Students
MHCC students who are majoring in early childhood education will also benefit from the new ECC. “Approximately 60 MHCC students are enrolled in our program,” says Christie Plinski, MHCC dean of social sciences. “The ECC will house classrooms for these students and offer a rich learning experience that will help prepare them for rewarding careers.”
Funding for the $6 million Center comes from a unique blending of federal and state funds, as well as a number of significant private donations.
Senator Rod Monroe is a veteran of many years in state and regional government, and a member of the MHCC District Board of Education. He played a key role in acquiring state funds for the project. “Those who are locked into a welfare and food stamps existence can’t afford private childcare, which typically runs $1,000 per month, and attend school at the same time. The ECC is an important step toward helping hardworking people to improve their lives, and the lives of their children,” says Monroe.
Designed for Kids
The ECC will be divided into four communities of two classrooms each, including three rooms for infants and toddlers. An internal street will meander through the communities, forming plazas, squares, nooks and corners to create a variety of spaces for play or quiet time.
Low windows, angled ceilings and ample storage space for toys, art supplies, books and jackets are built into the kid-friendly design.
The Center will include a kitchen for the preparation of meals for 15 Head Start programs located throughout the Portland metro area.
“Mt. Hood Community College serves a unique leadership role in the community,” observes Candy Solovjovs, program team manager for Meyer Memorial Trust, which contributed $250,000. “This project will yield many benefits in people’s lives.”
With the start of the fall academic term next September, the ECC will come alive with kids singing the ABC song and discovering which of the three little pigs built the strongest house. For MHCC, Head Start and a multitude of community partners, this “child’s play” will be the result of years of forward-thinking, planning, fund-raising, collaborating and building.