YMCA Preschool and Early Learning Center surrounds families with support

YMCA Preschool and Early Learning Center surrounds families with support

YMCA Preschool and Early Learning Center surrounds families with support

Apollo Thackrah-Thien enjoys playing in the Mansfield Area YMCA gymnasium, swimming and socializing with friends.As he approaches his fourth birthday this May, the animated boy continues to grow and advance through the Y Preschool and Early Learning Center.Thackrah-Thien first attended the infant care program as a 6-week- old, and then he progressed through toddler care. Now he benefits from the comprehensive preschool program for 3- to 5-year- olds. “I learn and play at school,” Thackrah-Thien said.

Thackrah-Thien’s grandmother, Lisa Weidner, cares from him and appreciates the skills he has developed through the Y childcare program. Since he has attended for most of his life, he knows all of the teachers and most of the children.“Socially he has learned to interact with other kids,” Weidner said. “His favorite aspect is being with his friends, and he does like the swimming. He loves his teachers.”Weidner noticed that Apollo learned developmental skills as an infant and social and emotional lessons as a toddler. As a preschool student, he has thrived. He can write his name and recognize his colors and numbers.“You can just see the teachers really care about their jobs,” Weidner said. “From the time that he was very young, they start teaching. They have really impacted us a lot.”

Teachers use thematic weekly lesson plans that incorporate Ohio Department of Education standards. “The children are learning what they need to go off to kindergarten,” Director of Family Services Velma Bond said. A few teachers even attended in the Preschool and Early Learning Center as children, and now chose to bring their children to the center.The swimming instruction, open gym programs, Spanish lessons and technology training create added benefits for parents of preschoolers. Special lunches and holiday programming are designed for parents and grandparents.

Bond appreciates Apollo’s spirit. “He is very friendly when he comes in,” she said. “He’s very open, and he will tell you what he thinks.” Bond draws from her 20 years of experience directing the Y childcare program to provide steady and consistent oversight. She loves watching the children grow and working with staff members. “I like to see the children graduate from our program and do extra fun things in the community,” Bond said. Bond especially enjoys supporting families by providing resources and references, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. Weidner appreciates the care and support from Bond as well as Y teachers and families. She receives assistance from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, but at times it is not enough. “There were times where I couldn’t pay the full price and they would work with me until I was able to,” Weidner said. “Because Apollo has been there for so long, they know a lot of the struggles we have been through. They have been there for us all along the way. They are like a second family.”

When Thackrah-Thien’s mom passed away in November 2016, Weidner experienced a tremendous amount of support from Bond and her Y family. The proceeds of a fall food drive went to Weidner, and Thackrah-Thien received toys and gift cards from families at Christmas.

“I was extremely touched by the kindness that was shown to us,” Weidner said.

The Preschool and Early Learning Center follows Ohio’s Step Up To Quality guidelines. The staff takes 10 hours of child development training every year. First aid and communicable disease training's happen every three years. The Y before and after school programs accommodate 6- to 12-year- olds. Children receive meals and benefit from arts and crafts, play time in the gym and homework assistance.Compared to other centers, the Y Preschool and Early Learning Center falls at the mid-range for childcare costs. Bond said the added benefits make it worth the cost.

“The YMCA gives children experiences that they sometimes can’t get from their own families,” Bond said.Children enrolled in the Summer Enrichment Program can even participate in off-site experiences such as COSI Columbus. Parents that are not eligible for Ohio Department of Job and Family Services assistance can apply for a Y childcare scholarship. “I would never want Apollo going anywhere but the Y,” Weidner said. “They are just wonderful.”

For more information about the Y Preschool and Early Learning programs, visit https://www.mansfieldy.org/childcare.

By Angela Cirone, Richland Source correspondent

To view the full article on Richland Source: http://www.richlandsource.com/life_and_culture/ymca-preschool-and-early-learning-center-surrounds-families-with-support/article_bf66f0d0-09c1-11e7-b792-1bec6384e7dd.html 

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