MHCC Opens New Building to Serve Students, Children and Their Parents

Posted: Sept. 21, 2011

An Early Childhood Center (ECC) —  the first new building constructed on the Gresham Campus in about 30 years —  will open this month at Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC).

Completion of the 21,000-square-foot facility creates a unique pathway for cradle to career success in the community, and marks the next chapter in MHCC’s 45-year history, according to Mike Hay, MHCC president, interim.

Mike Hay, MHCC interim president, reads an original story
to chilldren at the College’s new Early Childhood Center.

“Besides added space and modern design, there are many things that make this project special – from the children who will be ready to enter school, to the parents whose lives will be transformed because they are able to attend college and have the peace of mind that their children will be cared for and educated, to the MHCC students who will prepare themselves for careers in early childhood education,” said Hay.

“By making childcare and other services available on campus, we are increasing the chances of parents completing college and landing good jobs to support their families,” Hay continued. “This Center is an important step toward breaking the cycle of poverty in our College’s service region.”

Besides children and their parents, the ECC will also benefit MHCC students. “The Center will house classrooms for students in the Early Childhood and Education program and offer a rich learning experience that will help prepare them for rewarding careers, said Christie Plinski, vice president of instruction, interim. Approximately 60 students are enrolled in the program.

Community Support
Funding for the $6.2 million Center came from a unique blending of federal and state funds, as well as a number of significant private donations – including a coin drive by College employees. However, not all the donations were monetary: Students from Reynolds High School built kid-size benches and storage cubicles for the Center.

“Mt. Hood Community College serves a unique leadership role in the community, observed Candy Solovjovs, program team manager for Meyer Memorial Trust, which contributed $250,000. “This project will yield many benefits in people’s lives.”

Partnership with Head Start
Head Start will operate the Center in collaboration with MHCC. The federally-funded program provides comprehensive child development services to economically disadvantaged children and families.

“The new ECC will provide both Head Start and Early Head Start care to 184 children six months to five-years-old whose parents are enrolled in Head Start. Seven hours per day of childcare will be available to full-time MHCC students, said Susan Brady, director of child development and family support programs for the College. “Priority will be given to part-time MHCC students.”

The Center includes a kitchen for the preparation of meals for 15 Head Start programs located throughout the Portland metro area.

Kid-Friendly and Kid-Nurturing Design
The ECC is divided into four communities of two classrooms each, including three rooms for infants and toddlers. An internal street meanders through the communities, forming plazas, squares, nooks and corners to create a variety of spaces for play or quiet time.

A world class playground includes water features, a rope climbing structure, musical instruments, tricycle corral, tricycle path and much more.

"The Center is designed to promote strong connections to the natural world during the formative years of a child’s life,” said Renee Berndt, from the Portland architectural firm, Mahlum. “The building provides engaging natural and man-made environments, which form a complex network of outdoor playgrounds and interior play areas.

“Spaces with varying degrees of openness and daylight support different types of activity and interaction throughout the Center. The environment invites poetic thoughtfulness, joyful play and refreshing relaxation during the course of the day, using patterns of daylight, weather and annual seasons for inspiration,” continued Berndt.

Changing Lives
In just a few days, the ECC, which has been under construction since December, will come alive with kids singing the ABC song and discovering which of the three little pigs built the stronger house. It will be the culmination of months of planning, fundraising and collaboration – and dream fulfillment for many. As one supporter says, “Lives are going to be changed here.”

View a “video” showing eight months of construction in just a few seconds.
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 Last Modified: 9/28/2011 02:50:30 PM