HAVERHILL — From the cribs to the pint-sized desks, chairs and bookshelves, two adjoining rooms at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School are tailor fit to young children.
In partnership with the Haverhill YMCA, Whittier recently opened its new Whittier Early Education Center.
Seven children are currently enrolled in this preschool and /day care program, which is licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care.
Many more parents are expected to register their children as word gets around.
The center accepts students between the ages of six weeks and 5 years old, and for the first time offers students in Whittier’s Early Education and Care program a chance to gain hands-on experience working with children through co-op opportunities and class visits to the center without leaving the Whittier campus.
“We wanted our students to have an opportunity to gain experience working in early education on campus, while also providing a service to our staff with children,” said Vocational/Technical Coordinator Bev DeSalvo.
Children at the daycare center are separated into three age groups: infants, toddlers and preschoolers. They follow an early education curriculum based on their age group.
The center offers Whittier educators and students with children an on-site option for day care,and also is also open to the public. Families that enroll children at the center have the opportunity to apply for financial assistance and the center accepts state subsidies.
The center is open from 6:45 a.m. to 6 p.m., when school is in session. But on days when the school is closed, such as on certain holidays, parents are invited to bring their children to the Winter Street location.
“The YMCA is excited for this great collaboration and we are looking forward to offering high-quality affordable early education,” said Tracy Fuller, regional executive director of the Haverhill and Plaistow Community YMCAs.
The new center can accommodate up to 32 children, Fuller said.
“We have a list of 17 parents who are interested in the program and whom we are following up with,” she said.
The YMCA’s Children’s Learning Center, located in the Whittier Building at 87 Winter St., is currently at capacity with 74 children in that preschool and day care program.
“We ran out of room and this is also an exciting opportunity to help develop career paths for students at Whittier who are interested in a career in early childhood education,” Fuller said.
Two early education professionals from the YMCA staff the center at any given time, in addition to Whittier students who spend their co-op weeks as assistant teachers.
Kerri Iandolo, teaching director and onsite director for the YMCA, said Whittier students can obtain the kind of hands-on experience they can’t get in a classroom, such as “circle time.”
“Children gather to talk about the day and what they’re learning, and also we read stories and sing songs,” she said.
Senior Madison Herries, 17, of Haverhill, worked at the YMCA’s preschool this past summer and says she continues to gain experience working with young children. She wants to become a preschool teacher.
“It’s very exciting to have the program here,” Herries said. “I’m really happy they opened this new center.”
Senior Brooke Gates, 17, of Haverhill, hopes to become an American sign language interpreter and says she’s learning a lot about child behaviors and learning styles.
Gates interned at the Beverly School for the Deaf and also at the YMCA early childhood center on Winter Street.
“I think this will become a very popular program,” she said.
For more information, contact Allison Anthony at 978-374-0506. Visit online at northshoreymca.org/childcare-whittier-tech.