Children's Enrichment Center offers unique benefits for GVSU community
Grand Valley State University's Children's Enrichment Center (CEC), home to the "Littlest Lakers" on campus, has been a university establishment since the early 1970s. The center, which serves families of GVSU and the surrounding communities, is one of the university's most unique offerings.
While it is likely that many people have driven past the CEC, many campus community members are unaware of everything the center has to offer. Running a year-round preschool program serving children between the ages of 2 and 5 in the mornings, with "enrichment opportunities" offered during the day, the CEC also offers before- and after-school care for local Allendale elementary students up to the age of 12.
For a number of reasons, it is sensible that GVSU provides a place for children of students, faculty, staff and community members to learn and play while their parents work. Aside from the convenience factor of having access to a child care facility on campus, GVSU students are also offered a reduced rate for child care. This is noteworthy considering the struggles student parents face in juggling college and child care.
To add to that, the center also has a student-parent support group designed to aid student parents in their educational journey while they balance outside stressors. According to the CEC website, the 2011 myGVSU climate survey found that almost 500 students who responded to the survey identified as student parents. Even more, 33.5 percent of these parents reported having difficulty affording child care, with 52 percent identifying that they experienced financial hardship, citing childcare as one of the top three causes of said hardship.
The center also presents GVSU students—parents and non-parents alike—with unique learning opportunities they should take advantage of. As some undergraduate and graduate classes require that observations be made in an early learning environment, the CEC welcomes students to come and observe its programming. Students can also volunteer their time at the center and/or apply for employment opportunities before the start of a new semester.
Of course, planting young kids on a college campus is setting them up for success as well: They are surrounded by vast academic, cultural and professional resources, as well as intellectual and prodigious minds with plenty of knowledge and wisdom to share. As a campus community, we can mentor these Littlest Lakers and help prepare them for future success.
The kids have a lot to offer GVSU community members, too. As students, we are constantly surrounded by thousands of individuals our own age (18 to 25), with variation only coming in the form of older professors, non-traditional students and staff members. For a university that values diversity, there is not much diversity of age at GVSU. The CEC, though, is one potential avenue for GVSU students to socialize with individuals of different ages.
With that in mind, the CEC will be hosting several events this month to integrate the children there with GVSU students and community members. During the “Dress for Success” event in the Kirkhof Center Wednesday, Oct. 25, for example, the CEC will have a table reserved where children from the CEC can dress up and play Halloween games with students.
GVSU students should take advantage of this opportunity and socialize with these Littlest Lakers for their own benefit and the kids'.