A 25th anniversary is traditionally celebrated with silver. For the children and families served by the Pettis County Early Childhood Co-op, this year — which started Monday for the young students — will be golden thanks to the care and support provided by the staff at the center.
The Co-op provides free services to 3- and 4-year-old children with disabilities to students in the six public school districts of Pettis County — Sedalia School District 200, Green Ridge, La Monte, Hughesville/Houstonia, Smithton and Dresden.
Additionally, they provide Title One Preschool services to students in the Sedalia School District and provided a Parents as Teachers Program for eligible families.
“Our first day was really great,” Principal Grace Kendrick said. “We had a really smooth day and we are very happy to see the children back in the building and with us.”
Kendrick credited her staff with the success of the first day and the program as a whole.
“Our teachers do a tremendous job of working with not only the students but the families as well,” Kendrick said. “They are constantly planning and working with the families to meet the individual needs of each child.”
The staff includes the teachers and para-professionals, a speech pathologist, nurse, social worker, a full-time occupational therapist, and a part-time physical therapist.
Students from the University of Central Missouri’s teaching program come to work with the students as do the high school students from the Early Childhood Program at State Fair Community College’s Career and Technical program.
“This year we are piloting a new program where students from Whittier High School will come every Wednesday to work with our children,” Kendrick added. “We believe in all our students being actively engaged as a way to develop the whole child.”
Monday’s enrollment stood at 139 students. The Co-op has space for 200 children and Kendrick said the remaining space would fill quickly.
“Not every student who qualifies for our services actually comes to the building,” Kendrick said. “Some of our staff go out and service those children in the school district’s we serve or our staff may need to go to the home of the child.”
The goal of the program is to help the students become a success for life.
“We are exposing these children to a whole new world that many of them may not be familiar with,” Kendrick added. “We try to help them become as independent as they can.”
The Co-op uses a program known as “high scope learning” to accomplish their goals.
“Our students do a lot of hands on activities and learning,” Kendrick added. “We want them to be actively engaged — for example we bring them out to my farm where they gather eggs and ride horses. We try to provide them with the total farm experience in a safe learning environment.”
The Federal and State Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education fund the Co-op, but it relies on several civic organizations that make charitable donations to help meet the needs of the families that cannot be provided for with tax funding.
“We have some sayings here that we live by,” Kendrick said. “One is, ‘It takes a whole Co-op to raise a child,’ and that is true.
“But it takes so much more,” she added. “We are so grateful for all the help and support we receive.”
Throughout the building is another of the Co-op’s favorite mottos: “Together we can, hand in hand.”
“We serve so many families and we know those children go on to be successful,” Kendrick said. “We see it every year at graduation and when they return with a smile and a thank you.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484