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Students’ Work Relates to Career Paths

23-Dec-2014 By Cristina Janney
Managing Editor McPherson Sentinel

Posted Dec. 19, 2014 @ 9:35 am 

In the brightly colored rooms of Kids Kampus Child Care Center, with babies cooing and children laughing, two types of students are learning.

One set of students are children who are learning their shapes and colors, and the other is young adults who are working toward college degrees.

Kids Kampus is helping train and financially support college students and is providing a needed service for families in the community.

The child care is a part of the President’s Opportunity Challenge. The POC is a work study program that employs Central Christian College students in both on-campus jobs and at off-campus for-profit businesses.

Students are paid an hourly wage, which they can put toward tuition or other college expenses. The college’s goal is to eventually be able to graduate all of its students debt free.

Students work at the center as teachers’ aids and must meet all training requirements for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and pass a Kansas Bureau of Investigation background check.

The center employs eight students, including Central Christian College, McPherson College, and McPherson High School students. Only Central students are formally a part of the POC program.

The current student employees include elementary and early childhood education majors as well as one student who is interested in pursuing child psychology.

Working with small children can be rigorous work, and Wanda Williams, center director, said the center allows students to receive hands-on experience within their career paths.

Students learn classroom management skills and can build a four-year résumé before graduation.

Mariah Wedel, is a senior in elementary education at McPherson College and has worked for Kids Kampus since she was in high school.

“When I went to college, I did the day care, and I handled kids everyday,” she said. “I loved it, and it became my major.”

She said she has learned time management, multi-tasking, and how to relate to children during her time working for the child care. She also has begun to see students’ different learning styles.

Wedel is a softball player at McPherson College, and she said she greatly appreciates Williams’ willingness to let her be flexible with her 12 to 15 hours per week at the center. Because Wedel lives in McPherson, she works full time during breaks and the summer for the center.

“Wanda really works around my schedule,” she said. “I can go to class and make money to help me pay my bill at McPherson.”

The partnership between Williams and Kids Kampus happened by chance.

Central was looking at opening a child care center and contacted Williams, the Kids Kampus owner, for advice. Williams and Central officials decided the best option for both the college and child care was to combine forces and expand Kids Kampus. Private donors gave funds for the down payment. 
When Central purchased Kids Kampus, it moved into a bigger building, increased its child capacity and increased its number of employees to a total of 40.

Kids Kampus moved from its building at 200 S. Chestnut St. to the college campus, where Central spent an undisclosed amount to remodel a 13,000-square-foot former industrial arts building.

Williams remains the child care director, which Central President Hal Hoxie said has been essential to the success of the operation.

“This has been a win-win all the way around with the dream of the college to expand and the wonderful new facility,” Williams said.

Kids Kampus opened in August at its new location with increased capacity from 97 students to 200. The child care anticipates it will be full by the end of the month.

Williams said the addition child care spots were desperately needed in McPherson. The college’s analysis of the child care need in the McPherson area indicated the college could fill a center with a least 300 spots.

The center has a waiting list for its infant room that stretches into 2016.

“If you found out you were pregnant today,” Williams said, “we could not guarantee you a spot when the baby was born.”

Jaymie Rothrock’s mother stayed home with her two children because child care was so difficult to find. The Kids Kampus expansion made space for the Rothrocks’ daughter, Brielle, 3, and son Brekken, 20 months.

This allowed Rothrock’s mother to go back to work.

Rothrock said she was tentative about sending her children to a large child care center, but Kids Kampus came highly recommended.

Her children are greeted daily by staff members as they enter the center. Rothrock said she was amazed her son is learning his shapes and her daughter already knows more Spanish than she does. In addition, she said she was very impressed by the new facility.

That college students have opportunities to learn at the center and earn money for school is a bonus.

“I can’t tell who the students are and who the teachers are. I think it’s great the students have this learning opportunity, and I am glad there is a place in town they have the opportunity to do that. I think it is a good fit for them.”

For more information about Kids Kampus, call 620-241-8499. 

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