Jose Navarro feels fortunate to have a safe and nurturing environment for his 2-year-old daughter Linah close at hand while he is pursuing his bachelor's degree in psychology at The University of Texas-Pan American.
"It allows me flexibility in my time management. If there is something that I have to turn in by a certain time and I'm not done, having her there allows me time to study and to do my home work without having to leave Pan Am," he said. "At the same time that is also saving me money because I don't have to waste money on gas running back and forth."
Navarro is one of 70 students who is benefitting from a $360,172 grant the center received this fall from the U.S. Department of Education that assists Pell Grant-eligible students with the cost of child care services while enrolled at the University. UT Pan American was one of only two higher education institutions in Texas to receive the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) four-year grant which was effective Oct. 1.
In a press release announcing the 2013 CCAMPIS grants U.S. Secretary of the Department of Education Arne Duncan said peace of mind is an important factor in student success.
"These grants help parents stay focused on their studies and graduation goals. The funding is part of the Department's overall effort to support parenting students so that they can build better lives for themselves and their children," Duncan said.
Opened in 2005, the center provides a full-day environment for approximately 140 children ages 3 months to 4 years and offers full-time, five day care with three- and two-day options. It received national accreditation from the National Accreditation Commission (NAC) for Early Care and Education Programs in 2010 and is one of only two NAC-accredited facilities in the Rio Grande Valley. The center was reaccredited in August 2013. The CDC is also certified through the Texas Rising Star Provider Certification Program by exceeding the State's minimum licensing standards. UTPA's CDC has continuously received the highest (four-star) Texas Rising Star rating since February 2009.
The latest CCAMPIS grant - the third one the center has received - incorporates a parental involvement program that will include monthly parent meetings, volunteerism and mentoring by trained student-parent mentors to promote engagement of student-parents in campus life and the educational development of their children. A multipurpose room will soon be converted into a joint library for the children and a workroom for the student-parents who might need to use a computer for schoolwork or meet with a tutor.
"Now, not only are we providing a quality education and care to the students' children, which assists with student retention and graduation, but ensuring that we offer student-parents with educational opportunities for becoming a better student and parent with such workshops as early language development, reading to your child, financial literacy, and health and wellness," Perez said.
Perez said the student-parents who have been assisted with CCAMPIS funding have been highly successful in continuing and completing their educational goals.
"Since fall 2010, CCAMPIS student parents have had an average 90.2 percent semester-to-semester persistence rate. In comparison, the average persistence rate for all UTPA undergraduate students over the same time period is only 86.6 percent," Perez said.
Navarro said the service the CDC provides plays a big part in student-parents staying in school and being able to continue to graduation.
"Like me, now I have the grades and the time and I can go and get my master's and hopefully go on and get my doctorate. It is just contributing to my education and contributing to my daughter's growth. I can't ask for more," he said.
For more information on the grant and UTPA's Child Development Center, call Perez at (956) 665-2469 or email littlebroncs@utpa.
See more about the Child Development Center in this video: