By Angie Saenz
Pulse staff reporter
The road to success for Palo Alto students with children is steps away. The Ray Ellison Family Center, located on the campus of Palo Alto College, is an early childhood education center for children of currently enrolled PAC students, faculty, staff and the local community.
Karie Brown enrolled her daughter in the center a year ago when she became the eligible age – 21 months. Brown is a sophomore at PAC and currently receives grant assistance for the center’s tuition.
Brown said, “I really like Ms. Teresa. She was my daughter’s first teacher. My daughter called her grandma.”
The center is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the nation’s leading organization of early childhood education. To maintain the accreditation, the center is required to uphold the national standards of quality throughout the 5-year term of accreditation. The programs are routinely monitored to ensure accountability, continuous improvement and enhanced learning outcomes.
The Ray Ellison Family Center received the accreditation in 2010 after undergoing an extensive self-study process comparing its programs and services to 10 accredited early childhood program standards and more than 400 accreditation criteria. The center is required to submit forms annually and pay an annual accreditation fee.
The classroom walls are adorned with the children’s handmade artwork, making them cheerful and bright. A variety of age-appropriate educational toys and books are in every classroom. The rooms have small tables and chairs to accommodate the children, reminiscent of a kindergarten class. The classrooms vary slightly, but all are vibrant in theme and energy. The center has two outdoor canopied playground areas to protect the children during the summer heat.
Brown said that having her daughter attend the center has allowed her to focus on her classes. Math is a challenging course for Brown; she is able to visit the Math Lab for assistance because she knows her daughter is enjoying the center.
“I like it (the center) because I feel like it’s helpful for her, as well. She’s learning as well as I am,” said Brown.
The center currently has 30 children enrolled but its capacity is 66 children, ages 21 months to four years old.
Rose Medrano, interim coordinator of the Center, said, “My role is to get children enrolled at the center.”
Medrano would like to improve communication to allow students to benefit from their services. Of the 30 students currently enrolled, 25 children are those of PAC students and five are from the community (PAC faculty, staff and the community at large). The center consists of seven staff members and three work-study students. The staff fluctuates based on the enrollment. If more children attend, additional staff is added.
The center structured the instruction to align with PAC students’ schedules. Options include: M-F, M-TH, MWF, T/TH and M/W enrollment. The weekly tuition range for PAC students is $65.20 for two days and $163.00 for five days. The tuition includes breakfast, lunch and snacks. The center follows the PAC calendar and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Priority for enrollment is given to students so that they can focus on achieving their degree. The center’s open-door policy allows parents to visit the center throughout the day. A $40 non-refundable registration fee is required each semester for enrollment.
Medrano said a new Parent/Scholar Program for eligible students is available to assist with the tuition and fees of the center. Students must be enrolled as a PAC student, be registered for six or more credit hours and have a satisfactory academic standing. Medrano is still finalizing the details of the scholarship.
Interested students may visit the center or call (210) 486-3500 for a tour.