For the more than 4.8 million undergraduate college students in the United States who have dependent children, juggling school with child care is no easy task. A study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in September 2017 found that four in 10 women at two-year colleges were “likely or very likely to drop out of school” due to child care obligations, meaning that now, more than ever, student parents are requiring a support system.
Just blocks away from the Newman Vertical Campus stands a place trying to provide just that for Baruch College students — the Baruch College Early Learning Center. The center, which was originally known as the Baruch College Child Care Center at its inception in 1992, has just celebrated its 25th anniversary last month, marking a long history of engaging the children of Baruch students in workshops, relationship building, group and individual activities, exploration and much more.
Lorraine Mondesir serves as the center’s current director, bringing 30 years of childcare experience.
She began her tenure at the center in February 2017. Previously, she served as the director of the Early Childhood Center at Brooklyn College, an assistant teacher at Columbia University and has also worked at a private day care.
“We had a curriculum showcase for our families to talk a little bit about what we do here at the center and to have the parents become involved in an actual activity that their child would be involved in at school,” said Mondesir.
The center also offers a strong family support network, including a family worker that offers support to student parents and parenting workshops.
The topics of this academic year’s workshops include “Handling Your Child’s Anger, Frustration and Fears,” “Juggling Demands of Work, School and Home,” “Power Battles — Why They Happen and How To Avoid Them” and “Setting Limits.”
“I told her she was going to come to school, she was excited and I’ve seen her develop so much. I even opted from putting her in pre-K to keep her here until she’s five because I really like what they do here,” said Lilliana Sarmiento, an accounting major whose 4-year-old daughter, Esmeralda, attends the Early Learning Center.
“I used to be an evening student most of the time in my beginning semesters and I still would bring her [Esmeralda] 8 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.]. I wanted her to have an experience with other children because she’s an only child, so I thought that was really important for me, to prepare her for when she really has to go to school … for me to be able to go to the library and have some time just relax and do my study things means a lot,” said Sarmiento, who went on to state that the center’s child care services made it possible for her to attend her “dream school.”
This sentiment was echoed by Yessenia Interiano, a psychology major whose 3-year-old son also attends the Early Learning Center.
“It’s easier because I can have the access, I’m close to him. If something happens, I can just run and come to the center and see what’s going on. I like it because he can learn more, rather than just sitting at home watching TV,” Interiano said. “You know that your child is secure here and not in someplace else,” she said.
The center’s relatively low costs also attract parents. According to Mondesir, “tuition” costs for the center range from $40 per week to as little as $5 for parents who meet the income requirement for grants. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 may be enrolled in the center, which is licensed to accommodate up to 30 children.
In 1997, The Ticker reported that the Early Learning Center, which was serving 41 children at the time, was in jeopardy of cutting back services or even closing due to lost funding in years past. Fortunately for Baruch’s student parents, the center remains open.
The Early Learning Center is one of 16 child care centers across CUNY, including ones at Queens College, Kingsborough Community College and College of Staten Island, among others.
It is located at 104 East 19th Street on the second floor and operates from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday.
Parents must be currently enrolled as Baruch students for their child to attend the center. For further information, call 212-387-1420 or visit the Office of Student Life for an application.