Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies (AZ CEECS) members joined families in a southwest community of Gainesville, advocates and area officials on May 25 to break ground on a new CHILD (Children’s Health, Imagination, Learning and Discovery) Center. The CHILD Center is a collaboration between the Southwest Advocacy Group (SWAG), O2B Kids and the AZ CEECS.
The CHILD Center will provide low- or no-cost quality early care and education services to children from low-income families ages 0-5, and their families. Beyond providing high quality early care and learning experiences, the CHILD Center will serve the community as a model demonstration site providing professional development opportunities for child care providers in Alachua County.
“This partnership is important because it leverages the knowledge and expertise from key stakeholders representing the SWAG community, early care and education providers, and researchers that allows us to provide services and supports that are responsive to the needs of the community” said Dr. Herman Knopf, research scientist with AZ CEECS. “This new CHILD Center will benefit the University of Florida by providing an opportunity for students and faculty to be more directly involved in supporting the Gainesville community and will benefit children and families in this neighborhood by providing desperately needed services that support child development and learning, family self-sufficiency and positive life outcomes.”
A community dinner was followed by speeches from Commissioner Ken Cornell, Mayor Lauren Poe, Dr. Patricia Snyder, director of AZ CEECS, and SWAG board members to more than 100 people at the ceremony.
“The CHILD Center will not only prepare young children to succeed in kindergarten, but will provide parents with a safe and reliable place to leave their children while they go to work or attend school,” said Dorothy Thomas, co-chair of SWAG. “We believe that this innovative approach to early care and learning will not only work to break the generational cycle of poverty, but will serve as a county wide-model of how other areas can implement similar programs.”
The new center will be built at 820 SW 62nd Terrace in the SWAG neighborhoods of southwest Gainesville.