By Tania Guerrier
Everyone has seen it: the brightly colored playground that looks abnormally small, causing you ask yourself, was I really that small? Yes you were. I decided to venture into the tightly guarded play area and ask some questions about the toddler population at NCC, mostly about their parents, which are NCC students. It’s actually amazing how much you don’t know about a person; the familiar faces I saw coming out of The Children’s Greenhouse FSA left me in awe and admiration.
I spoke with a very pleasant woman named Janet Walsh. Janet informed me that before she was Director of The Children’s Greenhouse FSA, which she made sure to tell me is her second home, she was a teacher, and she has been at NCC for 30 years. Janet made me feel super comfortable in her presence. Having established that environment, I was able to ask many questions and actually clear some rumors that, prior to having this talk with Janet, I also believed were true. So it began…
Firstly, I asked Janet about the name of this fantastic resource we have on campus, because of course, I was not sure. It was then that Janet informed me that the child care portion of the program is what is referred to as The Children’s Greenhouse FSA. What Janet spoke of next really hit a nerve. Next to the center is a garden called Timmy’s Garden. It was named in loving memory of a child who attended the daycare program that died suddenly. The garden’s original funders are the parents of the late Timmy. Almost new, the garden became a part of the NCC campus in 2013. Although the memory is sad, the garden is full of precious memories. When Janet informed me that the children are very active in the garden and plant vegetables, along with many other activities that take place in the garden, I saw how hope plants the way for others to come together.
Education is hard, no doubt about that! Think of your overwhelming life as a college student, then just imagine adding a child into the mix. But it does not end there; imagine being a single parent, which Janet said make up 70% of the parents who use the childcare program. Single parents are in equal parts men and women. Having my fellow students in mind, I proceeded to ask Janet if there were any support groups available for students who have to make all these sacrifices. She told me that there is one through the English Department. Project Forward offers a 6-week relationship workshop from 6pm-8pm. This workshop is free and offers special sessions for the single parent! Janet also mentioned a mom’s club that is currently pending, waiting for the proper amount of signatures.
One piece of information I found surprising is when Janet explained that child care at The Children’s Greenhouse FSA is not free; in fact, it’s charged by the hour. The payments are done on a sliding scale and a reduced rate. She continued to explain to me that parents are encouraged to apply for something similar to financial aid, which works as a grant that will help pay for childcare, and in addition, it may cover some of the parent’s expenses for some courses. All further information and applications are available right at The Children’s Greenhouse FSA.
Closing the conversation, Janet shared stories with me about how essential childcare is for single parents and for the safety of the children. Honestly speaking, Janet admitted that single parents are at a disadvantage if they do not have resources available to them. Janet also shared success stories about parents who have told her that getting an education would not be possible without the childcare program.
Lastly, I asked Janet what advice she had for single parents at NCC. She proceeded to answer, “Don’t give up. Reach out to people around you; we are always here to talk. When stress builds up, we encourage you to push through; take advantage!”