At 18 years old with a 1-year-old and working first shift as an STNA, Cheyenne Hardin needed to find a convenient, reliable and trustworthy childcare provider.
She went through several websites, desperately searching for a provider, but none of them fit the bill for her. She wanted an educational environment, a nurturing environment and a place that could feel like a second home for her daughter. It needed to be a place of comfort but could also provide growth.
After a long, thorough search, Hardin stumbled on Madison Early Childhood Learning Center (MECLC). Seven years and two more children later, she remains satisfied with the center, especially now as it’s in the finishing stages of transformation.
“I don't worry when I'm at work. I don't feel like I have to constantly check on my kids,” Hardin sa
MECLC reopened on Aug. 10 in a new building after spending 35 years in the Jesse Beer building, which began to deteriorate over the years, according to principal Natasha Repp.
“We couldn't continue to keep up with the ongoing maintenance issues of the building, and instead of continuing to put more money back into the building we wanted to put more money back into our program, back into our families and back into our community,” Repp said.
With leftover funds from the middle school building project, they were able to purchase a new building. The new building is ranch style and all on one floor, one hallway for the infant and toddlers program and the other hallway for preschool and school age programs. Each classroom has one or two bathrooms, preventing disturbances or accidents, as well as an air conditioner unit.
Children can also look forward to an eventful and safe play time. The previous owners of the building already invested $100,000 or more into the playground and installed new playground equipment as well as astroturf on the infant/toddler playground.
The school age program at MECLC is the only five star rated school age program in Richland County while the infant/toddler preschool programs are four star rated. All preschool teachers have their bachelor's or master's degrees in early childhood education or child development, and with a low turnover rate, children can come into school feeling reassured that they will see the same familiar faces.
“We want the kids to be able to just come in here and be comfortable,” Repp said. “We want them to know all the teachers, we want all the teachers to know all of our kids, so they feel safe and they have a sense of community and a sense of family here. That's very important to us so they feel safe and they feel that they're in a very positive and nurturing environment.”
The Career Tech Madison Child Development students are located in the MECLC building as well. The partnership between the Career Tech Madison Child Development students and MECLC provides many positive experiences for all children at MECLC.
Hardin feels proud of the fact that whenever she drops her kids off, instead of crying and begging for her not to leave, her children run right into their teachers arms. Not only does she know they’re in safe hands, but she knows they’re receiving the best education and learning opportunities.
“(The teachers) genuinely care about my children,” Hardin said. “My kids learn while they're there; it's not just playtime. My daughter that finished the preschool program and started at one year old actually went on to Spanish Immersion school and started a year early.”
In the process of giving her children a wonderful experience and a second family, Hardin feels like she’s gained a new set of friends at the center whom she trusts full-heartedly.
“They genuinely care about your children. It's not just a job for them,” Hardin said.