CENTER OF EXCELLENCE: A PARTNERSHIP SUCCESS STORY
The Center of Excellence Child Care and Academy in Hillsborough opened in July 2017 and enrolled in OCPYC’s Growing Up Healthy project in December 2017. Under director Cynthia Williams-Hills’ leadership, they began working on improving best practices through the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (GO NAPSACC) and action planning in early 2018.
With OCPYC support, the center has transformed their Outdoor Learning Environments (OLEs), including adding paved riding pathways in both the preschool and toddler play areas. The center added three gazebo-covered decks (one for infants, one for toddlers and one for preschool) that are used as outdoor classrooms and high dry play areas in inclement weather. They have also added more shade trees, shrubs, blueberries and a fig tree.
In 2019 COE began working towards the Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Designation, which included training their staff and making the center more welcoming to breastfeeding families. Their score of best practices on the GO NAPSACC increased by 24% in this program area between July 2018 and May 2020.
COE’s engagement with OCPYC deepened in 2020 as the center joined the Farm to Early Care and Education Collaborative and OCPYC’s Growing Up Green Conservation Project. Staff learned more about gardening with children, providing local foods for snacks, and were able to add four garden beds and a pollinator garden to their preschool Outdoor Learning Environment using mini-grants from these two programs.
The center has also participated in the Ready Infant Toddler Project funded by OCPYC through Child Care Services Association, and they became an NC Pre-K provider in the fall of 2020. “It is so rewarding to see the positive results of working together with a center director who is dedicated to improving their center. Cynthia sees the benefits for children, families and staff and has made the most of multiple programs and resources available through the Partnership,” says Maria Hitt, Growing Up Healthy Project Manager.
“When we opened in 2017, our playgrounds were a blank canvas. Then Orange County Partnership for Young Children came along and our blank canvas became a work of art. The teachers and children love the changes we have made.”
– Cynthia Williams-Hills, Center of Excellence Director/Owner