Geppert Center awarded federal grant

Geppert Center awarded federal grant Vice President Al Gore has announced that The Mathilda Geppert Childcare Center at The University of South Dakota is one of 87 college and university child care programs nationwide to receive a grant under the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CAMPUS).

The Geppert Center will receive $129,400 over the next four years. The CAMPUS program was created under the Higher Education Act of 1998.

"No parent should have to choose between taking care of their children and furthering their education," Vice President Gore said. "These grants will help us support low-income Americans who want to work hard and get the education and training the need to improve their skills and their chance to build a better future for themselves and their family."

The Mathilda Geppert Center will use the grant to add an infant and toddler program to the campus-based child care center, to expand services to include child care for students attending night classes, to enhance the Center's existing pre-school and after school programs, and to upgrade child care workers' salaries and training. The grant will finance 11 percent of the cost of the program expansion while 26 percent of the cost will come from private sources.

Merle Eintracht, Geppert Center coordinator, and Carol Geu of Vermillion collaborated to research and write the grant application. According to Eintracht, the grant will be used to expand access to quality, campus-based child care for low-income students. "This grant is very important to students at USD because it allows this center to expand its child care programs," said Eintracht. "We are seeing a significant increase in enrollment on nontraditional students in postsecondary institutions across the country. These student-parents indicate that the availability of childcare is critical in their decision to enroll in college. It is our responsibility to help them," she said.

"We understand how students schedules work," said eintracht. "It is necessary that we offer flexibility, especially during finals weeks," she said. "We believe it is vitally important that parents spend time with their children and not put them in child care 40 hours per week," added Eintracht.

The Geppert Center, currently licensed to provide care for 40 children aged 2-12 at any one time, offers students affordable and accessible child care. They require students to contract only $20 of childcare per week (about 8-10 hours), thereby allowing parents to spend more time at home with their children, and the Center to serve more children. In the spring semester, 74 children were enrolled at the Geppert Center.

Geu noted that the Geppert Center provides complete pre-school and after school programs as part of its daily schedule. "Quality child care helps children develop into independent, self-confident, inquisitive learners. Everything at the Geppert Center is designed to accomplish the goal of giving children a successful start in life and in school," said Geu. "Studies have shown that children cannot learn unless they are healthy and safe. Further, children learn best in high quality settings like the one provided by the Geppert Center," Geu said.

The need is great for quality campus-based childcare services for low-income students at USD, according to statistics included in the grant. In the fall of 1998, 37 percent of USD's undergraduate population received Pell grants and 29 percent of those recipients had dependent children. A 1990 census reported that Clay County was the home of 761 children under the age of 5. Nationally, 59.7 percent of women with preschool children work outside the home. In South Dakota, this figure is the highest in the nation with 71.3 percent of women with preschool children in the work force. Births to single teens (mothers under 20) made up 9.4 percent of all births in South Dakota from 1993-97.

"This creates a high demand for quality affordable child care in Vermillion and is of significant concern to low-income families," said Eintracht. "Our new infant and toddler program will be an important step forward to providing access to quality campus-based childcare for low-income students," she said. "Students who choose to enroll their children in the programs at the Geppert Center know that their children will receive quality, state-of-the-art care from a licensed day care center that does not discriminate against families on the basis of income level, color, national origin, gender, age or disability," said Eintracht.

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