WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - There's an early childhood education center in the Bay-Waveland school district, that's trying to raise the standard for quality early care. The Early Education Center in Waveland is currently a four-star pre-school for children ages six weeks to four years old.
"We actually have a curriculum, from infant to pre-K," explains Early Education Center Director, Donna Torres. "We're not a babysitting service. We're here to help parents make sure their children have that foundation for school."
Torres has a passion for early childhood education. Her connection with the children at the Early Education Center is evident as she shows off her four-star facility.
"I was a Kindergarten teacher for eight years, and so often I saw children come into my Kindergarten class unprepared."
Torres says that's why she has dedicated herself to providing quality child care to families in the Bay-Waveland school district.
"I want them to be ready to learn when they get to Kindergarten, and I'm talking about those babies that are in the infant room. I want to make sure that we start there providing exposure to literacy and music and dance and social skills, even there, and progress all the way up through our pre-K, where I know when they step out into Kindergarten, they're ready to learn."
Whether they're reading, painting, singing or dancing, Torres knows her young students are gaining the valuable experience they need to succeed in school. The Early Education Center relies on tuition for funding, but Torres hopes that will one day change, so more children have the same opportunity for a strong start in life.
"Oh I think it would be awesome if every school district, every county could offer an early childhood, early childhood educational program without parents having to worry, ‘Where is this month's money going to come from? And is my child somewhere where they're learning and being cared for properly.'"
She says parents are constantly telling her what a difference they see in their child, after enrolling them at the center. To Torres, that's just more evidence better quality care is needed for all families.
"It's important for us to have programs available to them to make sure that there's no missing links in a child's development. It's too important. And that's why I think it's important we have centers like this."
Torres says she hopes the Early Education Center will get a five star rating next year. That's the highest rating from the Mississippi Child Care Quality Step System.
The Early Education Center was built in 2008, thanks to a generous donation from Chevron, which has invested millions of dollars in the statewide Excel by 5 initiative. The organization, Save the Children, also helped fund the center.
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