On-campus day care aims to meet ‘incredible need’ so moms can graduate

CEDAR CITY — Following a generous donation from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, Southern Utah University is pleased to be moving forward with plans for an on-campus day care and preschool center.

The Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child & Family Development Center is part of an effort to further support nontraditional students with child care and to continue serving the community with the preschool center – all in one centralized location.

The center will be committed to the retention and graduation of SUU students by providing not only a high quality facility but also parent and family support.

Kathy Wyatt, wife of SUU President Scott L Wyatt, heads the committee for the center and said she was shocked at the decline in graduation rates at the university for women passing age 25.

“When I was told much of that drop was due to having children and the lack of funds for child care,” she said, “I knew something needed to be done.”

Besides her connection to the university through her husband, Kathy Wyatt has a personal understanding of what it means to be a nontraditional student. She said:

I’m a nontraditional student. I’m finishing my education now because I wasn’t able to. I got married and we couldn’t afford to have both of us attend, so I dropped out and worked to put my husband through school. … I feel though I was one of the lucky ones. Things worked out OK for me, but I’ve become acquainted with so many who aren’t lucky and who are really forced and have to go back to get their education and find themselves needing to support a family.

Child care can cost anywhere between $250-$700 per month per child. Add tuition and this amount is daunting for many students like Alayna Johnson, a mother of four. Johnson is an accounting major at SUU and was overwhelmed by the cost of child care.

Having children should not mean the end of your education, and for so many women that’s exactly what it means,” said Johnson.

See video in media player at the top of this report

With flexible care hours and an on-campus location, the new center will be convenient, affordable and a safe option for SUU students. The facility will offer drop-off care instead of all-day care, which will significantly lower the cost for parents.

Kathy Wyatt said she felt “an incredible need” to help these parents, especially single parents.

“I know it will improve not only their lives but the lives of their children for generations after,” she said. “That’s kind of what drives me. I really feel that education is key to a better life, and I want to see this happen.”

The child care facility will be able to serve roughly 80 to 100 students and their children each year. However, in addition to simply taking away some of the child care burden, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child & Family Development Center will also offer resources for parents struggling in other areas.

Stock image, St. George News / Cedar City News

The parent and family support center will have noncredit courses on parenting, marital preparation, financial literacy and marriage enrichment, as well as offer tutoring for children from grades K-12.

Ellen Treanor, SUU executive director of marketing communications, said she likes the fact that the new center will centralize these community education classes. Like Kathy Wyatt, Treanor has a personal connection to this issue.

“I just recently took a class that was offered,” Treanor said, “and it was upstairs in a restaurant and it was not ideal. … There was clearly a restaurant happening all around it, so what’s really nice is that this space in the evenings will be used for the community education classes that will support families.”

In addition to child care, the new center will also house the SUU Tiny T-birds preschool lab, which was previously located in North Elementary. Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the preschool is open to all community members and provides high quality professional training for preservice early childhood professionals.

With the construction of the new North Elementary building, the preschool lab will be moving back to its former location at 123 S. 300 West while the new Sorenson center is being built.

We’re kind of returning to our roots,” said Karen Houser, who is in charge of the preschool program. “That preschool has been there since the 1960s. That little preschool is near and dear to the hearts many people in this community. … So many people went there, and they want their kids to go there.”

Besides the nostalgia, Houser said they are also excited for the opportunity to be closer to the SUU campus.

“Our kids are going to have art classes at SUMA,” she said, referring to the Southern Utah Museum of Art on campus. “They’re going to get to go to the science department. … They have plans for the planetarium. They have an inflatable planetarium for the kids.”

The estimated cost of the Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child & Family Development Center is $2.5 million and half of the funding has already been raised. Approximately $500,000 came from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, Kathy Wyatt said, as well as a parcel of land given to the cause by SUU as part of a trade with the Leavitt Group.

“That’s another half-million gift,” she said. “So really, we’ve got over a million raised with that and private donations that are coming in.”

The center will be built south of the Multipurpose Building on the corner of 700 West, and the goal is to have the facility completed by fall of 2019.

To learn more about the The Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child & Family Development Center or to donate to the cause go to the SUU center webpage.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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