By Jane Fernandez
East Los Angeles College does not only educate adults but also children through the Child Development Center. The Child Development Center first opened its doors at ELAC in February 1975. At the time, it was a single bungalow and provided service to 11 families, many of whom were single mothers.
In 1977, the center opened a second bungalow and it kept it that way until 1990, when a proposal for a permanent site was written by Michael Simone, then Director of the Child Development Center. “The process of the permanent site took 10 years between the proposal and construction,” Simone said.
In 2001, the new center opened in Spring 2000 and now provides services to over 240 student families. The center takes children ages three to five years old. ELAC was the first community college to have a kindergarten class.
The center’s main purpose is to allow parents who want to continue on to a higher education, a facility to do so by providing them with a safe, fun and educative environment for their children. The staff consists of the college’s faculty members, students, teacher assistants and trained volunteers.
There are about 45 adults working at the center and around 180 children taking part in the program. “Sometimes there are way too many adults in a class room,” said Simone, referring to the quantity of adults per children.
Nursing student Jeannina Jimenez attends ELAC full time, leaving her five year-old child Donovan at the center. She has been participating in the program for two years. “He loves it. Everyday, he’s excited to come,” Jimenez said.
She said that if it was not for the program she would not have been able to attend college full time because she would not have anyone to leave her child with. “Before, I would just attend adult school because I did not have a daycare or long-term baby sitter. “After I found out that ELAC had a child development center I was able to attend college full time,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez finds the center’s hours to fit with her school schedule perfectly. She said that by the time she is done with her classes and spent time studying, it is time for her child to be picked up. “I love their schedule and their teachers. They seem to have a lot of experience and they know how the children are developing throughout the years,” Jimenez said.
The center holds six different classrooms, according to age group. So far there are 24 children per classroom, which is under the maximum the center is allowed to have. The center has activities for children such as magic shows and a Harvest Appreciation Run that took place last Thursday, where the community gathered for a Thanksgiving meal.
Through the center, children learn how to interact with other kids their age. They learn problem-solving skills, a fuller vocabulary and what the center encourages the most, for a child to be a child and enjoy what they do. The center gets its funds from The California Child Care Food Program and other programs such as the California Department of Education.
The center offers breakfast, lunch and snacks to all the children. In classroom activities include painting, story time, discussions, and play time. Children are also encouraged to take naps as part of their daily classroom routine. “It is a great child development center. It gives children the opportunity to expand their social and leaving skills,” Jimenez said.
Participants can take advantage of the program up to six semesters, depending on the child’s age at the time of enrollment. The center is open all year round and it offers morning and afternoon classes.
There are current openings for children 3 to 4 years of age. Students interested must go in person for an application or to find out if they qualify or by calling (323) 265-8788. The Child Development Center is located in the A1 building.