By Cassady Thompson
The University of West Georgia’s pre-kindergarten program isn’t your average child care center. It is a unique early education opportunity that combines faculty, student and community life.
The pre-K program, accredited by Bright from the Start and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), found its home within UWG’s College of Education (COE) approximately 20 years ago, where it began with only two classes and a big vision. Today it consists of four classes and educates 70 children, with a maximum of 86 students.
The grant-funded program is free of cost in terms of tuition and child care fees. The only financial support requested from families is a voluntary snack and field trip contribution.
One additional aspect that sets the program apart from other child care centers is that it is the only NAEYC-accredited pre-K in Carrollton, explained director Mary Reid.
“We have very stringent requirements for teachers, family relationships and community involvement,” she said. “It is an elite and hard-to-acquire accreditation, and we have just recently received notice of our five-year renewal.”
As part of this highly coveted accreditation, two classes were observed. Both classes passed in the 98th percentile, and passed the families and community relationships segment with a 100 percent rate.
As the program is located in the COE, administrators find support through the college in many ways.
“Last year with year-end money from the COE, we were able to purchase interactive SMART boards as they donated about $10,000,” Reid said. “In addition, we were able to get new playground equipment.”
In terms of personnel support, the COE plays a large role. For example, student teachers from the early childhood education department work in the building two days a week for a full semester, providing the program with hands-on experiences in a classroom. Students also are able to log observation hours in classroom.
In addition to the COE, other UWG programs lend their support and provide the center with additional experiences.
“Recently, the physical education department implemented a fitness program with all our students,” Reid said. “We also have music education students share their musical talents with us. The eco-leaders on campus, which is part of the sustainability program, also planted some grass with the kids in the community garden on campus.”
Last August, the classes made their way over to the observatory, grabbed their glasses and watched the solar eclipse in awe. Soon to come, the group will work with the archaeology department and complete a dig for various kid-friendly items. They will learn how to uncover artifacts and keep their findings.
The students go on typical field trips to the pumpkin patch and the aquarium, but as described by Reid, the on campus activities are more unique experiences that most pre-K programs do not have the opportunity to participate in.
Building a Community
The teachers, students and families feel very privileged to be a part of a Bright from the Start pre-K. To give back, they engage in various community outreach projects during the year.
“On the 100th day of school, all the children bring canned goods and each class strives to donate 100 cans to our local soup kitchen,” Reid said proudly. “This year we donated more than 400 cans to the soup kitchen. In March, we celebrated World Water Day, in which we collected water and gave more than 40 cases to the homeless shelter. In May, the children will honor their mothers by donating items to the local women’s shelter.”
The program, which runs from August through May, is available each year to children who reach age 4 by Sept. 1 of the enrolling year and are Georgia residents. Each year allows space for 86 children, 28 of whom are children of university faculty, staff and students. The remainder availability is filled via a lottery process.
“It really is a melting pot,” Reid said. “Everyone comes together. We learn and build a community together.”
CUTLINE: The University of West Georgia’s pre-kindergarten program is the only NAEYC-accredited pre-K in Carrollton. Accredited by Bright from the Start and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the pre-K program found its home within UWG’s College of Education (COE) approximately 20 years ago, where it began with only two classes and a big vision. Today it consists of four classes and educates 70 children, with a maximum of 86 students.
UWG serves more than 13,500 students from across Georgia, 37 other states and 72 countries. Perennially ranked by U.S. News and World Report as a top national university, West Georgia offers 88 fields of study, including business, nursing, education, STEM, social sciences and the arts. It generates a regional economic impact of nearly $520 million and provides a safe, quality and affordable college experience that transforms lives.