Week of the Young Child and 50 years

By: 
Bri Brasher

Emma Alexander expresses her creativity at the Weston County Children’s Center, which is celebrating 50 years in business this year. (Submitted photo)

Bri Brasher 

NLJ Reporter

 

Weston County Children’s Center is celebrating 50 years in business, and the staff is kicking off the festivities with the Week of the Young Child. 

Gov. Mark Gordon officially proclaimed April 8 -12 as the Week of the Young Child on Monday, according to Kim Bock and Francie Gregory, the center’s co-directors. The Weston County Children’s Center has been celebrating the week for many years, though Bock and Gregory said the week has been celebrated a bit less the past few years. The pair said they are “excited to do it up again this year.” 

The week is sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the association has topics and activities for each day of the week, which the center planned to follow. 

“The coolest thing is, this is the first time we’ve had the governor sign a proclamation for this,” Bock said.

“Throughout this week, communities across the state are celebrating young children, families and the professionals who care for and educate them. Many featured events will occur April 8-12 during the Week of the Young Child™,” a new release announcement says. “These events highlight the needs of young children and their families and recognize the early childhood professionals, programs and services that meet those needs.”

 “Monday is music Monday,” Bock said. That means that the children at the center enjoyed musical activities. Other activities were planned for the remainder of the week. The center also encouraged families to take family pictures with their children during the week, and the center has a backdrop ready for that purpose. Friday will feature a pancake breakfast where parents can come in and have “cakes with their kids,” Bock said. 

The center’s 50-year anniversary celebration will continue after the Week of the Young Child, Gregory said, with the staff planning a monthly event through September. The center participated in the recent health fair  by providing free hearing screenings for adults and signing kids up for screenings. 

In May, the center will recognize Better Speech and Hearing Month, and the annual Eva Marie Bock 5K Glow Run will take place June 14. At the end of June, the center also hopes to sponsor the showing of the movie “Fred Rogers Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” an event that will be geared toward adults. In July, the center will participate in the local farmers market, selling baked items and possibly cotton candy. The staff is also thinking about bringing a bouncy house to the market. The center also plans to participate in the fair parade at the end of July before joining in on the Madness on Main fun in August with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) activities geared toward kids. 

 “That’s (STEAM) something new we’ve started with our children here this year. It’s kind of a nationwide push,” Gregory said. The center will also extend the activities to the community for Madness on Main, she said. 

Then, the Weston County Children’s Center will wrap up its 50th anniversary celebration with a big open house and barbeque at the center in September, including all current and past employees, children and families. Bock and Gregory are hoping for a big event. The two spoke of the center’s role in serving the families of Weston County over the years. 

“Our role in this community has changed a lot in the 50 years. We began as a day care. It’s not day care anymore. We are a full developmental preschool,” said Bock, who noted that the role of the children’s center changed because of what the staff has learned about brain development, how children learn and the importance of preschool in all children’s lives.  

 “Young children experience tremendous brain growth in the early years of life. Much like the importance of a solid foundation in architecture, young children’s brains are forming important neurological connections that support their success in school and in life,” according to the center’s press release. “Warm, responsive relationships enriched with language help ensure children’s healthy development. Safe, secure relationships and environments help prevent the greatest risk to children’s
well-being:  toxic stress. … Weston County Children’s Center and surrounding child care facilities work to promote practices that ensure all of the children in our community receive high quality early care and education.”

The center is always evolving, yet the children’s care and development remain the center’s priority, say the directors. Even with recent changes in leadership, Bock and Gregory are making sure the center keeps going. The two are splitting the role of executive director for the time being, and the length of the interim period is undecided. 

“We both see the importance and the absolute necessity of early childhood. We weren’t willing to let the ship sink, so we just pulled together and did what we had to do,” Gregory said.

Gregory, who started working at the center as a classroom teacher 24 years ago, is now the finance director, in addition to sharing the director’s duties. 

“I think it came about just because we care so much about the center,” said Bock, who also serves as special education director. “We’ve both been here a really long time, and our buy-in is a lot deeper than just a job. I think we just kind of came together that way.”

Bock started at the center nearly 30 years ago as a substitute. She and Gregory said they have been working well together through ongoing communication and respect for all opinions. They said they’re getting staff involved in all decisions with a “we’re all in this together approach” and a “kids learn by doing” philosophy. 

The Weston County Children’s Center is open year-round, and includes a 10-week summer preschool program. 

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