"The itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out...," sang the four-year-old students from the new Child Development Center (CDC) at The University of Texas-Pan American as they entertained a group of UTPA administrators, legislators, and others with the children's song during a dedication ceremony of the $1.5 million building Nov. 15.
"This Child Development Center is about our students, staff, faculty and their children," Cárdenas said. "We are committed to the success of our students and to the highest quality of early opportunities for their children so that the stresses and pressures of being a parent while being a student are somewhat ameliorated with the confidence that their children are in a safe high quality place."
The facility, located on campus near the College of Education Complex, offers a learning and nurturing environment to 140 children, ranging in ages from three months to four years old. Ten classrooms designated for infants, toddlers and preschool children as well as four separate age-appropriate playgrounds are features of the CDC. Additional features include a multipurpose room, a mother's room and a full-service kitchen.
The CDC will also provide research opportunities and collaborative agreements with UTPA academic departments to benefit CDC students and educate University students.
Elda Perez, CDC director, said many UTPA student-parents are happy to have their children so close by and receiving a top-notch education.
"They say at the end of every rainbow is a pot of gold, I welcome you to the UTPA Child Development Center, our pot of gold, and your pot of gold. I say it is a pot of gold because for many of our students the CDC has been a piece of fortune for them. We came together a year ago to mark the beginning of a new program, a new venture, a first for the University," Perez said.
"This facility has been in desperate need for some time, now that it is here I am sorry I am graduating," Rocha, a senior English major graduating in December 2005, said. "As a parent childcare is always important but as a student who happens to be a parent it is imperative. I already see the difference the facility has made in my daughter."
To support UTPA student-parents in their higher education endeavors, the U.S. Department of Education recently awarded the Child Development Center, administered under the Division of Enrollment and Student Services, a grant in the amount of $243,764 for one year, which will be awarded for a total of four years ($975,056). The U.S. Department of Education's Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) Program supports the participation of low-income parents in the postsecondary education system through the provision of campus-based childcare services.
CCAMPIS project objectives include providing campus-based childcare services for children age three months to four years; offering an all-day year-round service to UTPA student parents; offering high quality campus-based childcare services and education programming; and enhancing the retention and graduation rates of students whose children are served by the project.
Through the funding, two full-time certified early childhood educators will be hired.
With 70 percent of UTPA students on financial aid, childcare grants to Pell-eligible students will also be awarded on an equitable basis, which will cut CDC tuition and fees by 50 percent for student-parents.
For more information on the UTPA Child Development Center, call 956/381-2469.