New child care facility opens at Dine' College

Photo by Ed McCombs
Pictured in front of the new Child Care facility, dedicated May 15 at Dine' College’s Tsaile campus are Tanya Gorman Kieth, left, Vice President of Academics; Elfreda Yazzie, Student Activities Coordinator and Child Care Committee member; President Ferlin Clark, Francesca Shiekh, Director of Information Services Department and committee member; Sharon Begay, Director of Resident Life and committee member; Lenora Wilson, Child Care Development Fund Program Supervisor, and Courtney Gorman, Web Services Supervisor and committee member.

Photo by Ed McCombs Pictured in front of the new Child Care facility, dedicated May 15 at Dine' College’s Tsaile campus are Tanya Gorman Kieth, left, Vice President of Academics; Elfreda Yazzie, Student Activities Coordinator and Child Care Committee member; President Ferlin Clark, Francesca Shiekh, Director of Information Services Department and committee member; Sharon Begay, Director of Resident Life and committee member; Lenora Wilson, Child Care Development Fund Program Supervisor, and Courtney Gorman, Web Services Supervisor and committee member.

TSAILE -- After more than four years of frustration, hard work and perseverance, a brand new child care facility, Nooset'i'Be' olta' is ready to open its doors here on the Dine' College Tsaile, campus.

Jack Jackson Sr., Director of Legislative and Cultural Affairs, dedicated the new facility in a traditional Navajo ceremony on May 15, followed by an open house and traditional Navajo dinner.

"This unique partnership with the Navajo Nation to provide child care for our students, staff and faculty is something we want to emulate at all Dine' College locations," said President Ferlin Clark. "Sharing resources and working together allows our students to pursue their academic endeavors," Clark concluded.

The Dine' College Child Care Committee was born from students and staff members who recognized the need for reliable child care for the entire college population, ranging from parenting students to employees. Although there are services within the Tsaile community through the Navajo Nation Social Services and Head Start programs, they are only available on a highly curtailed basis. All have low-income preference, which places most employees and some students at the bottom of the waiting list. With severe space limitations, all three existing facilities require long waiting lists.

--In the summer 2002, staff organized a Child Care Committee comprised of Courtney Gorman, Elfreda Yazzie, Sharon Begay, Francesca Shiekh, and Brenda Benally-Wilson, which began to meet and explore solutions to address the need for child care at Tsaile.

In the spring 2003, the committee conducted a survey, which identified 248 children needing child care, including daytime and after school programs, and developed a plan to begin addressing this need.

In May 2003, the committee submitted a proposal for Phase I to the American Indian College Fund (AICF) Sii Ha Sin Capital Construction Campaign, requesting $203,608.49 for a child care building. The proposal was written by Paul Zolbrod and Cameron Daines. On June 16, 2003 the AICF awarded Dine' College the requested amount for Phase I construction.

During the fall of 2003 through the fall of 2005, the committee continued work on the planning of construction and the management of the new facility. After overcoming several hurdles in the selection of an architectural and construction firm, In June 2004, Comark Building Systems Inc. was awarded the contract.

Several options were considered by the committee for the management and operation of the facility; in the end, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed between Dine' College and the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) (Oct. 1, 2005 -- Sept. 30, 2010) to provide affordable, available and quality child care services to the Tsaile community.

Through the agreement Dine' College provides the land, building and other services while CCDF manages the child care center with a percentage of space allotted to children of non-CCDF-eligible Dine' College students and employees while also providing services to the community through the CCDF Program.

The newly dedicated Dine' College Nooset' Be'—lta' Child Care Facility is tentatively scheduled to open on June 5. For information on enrollment contact CCDF.

The Dine' College Child Care Committee wishes to thank the American Indian College Fund and the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services employees, Lenora Wilson, Calvina Tsosie and Edna Williams, who were instrumental in getting the MOA composed and through appropriate channels in a timely fashion. The committee also acknowledges Marvin Chee, CCDF Program Manager for his support of the initiative.

(Ed McCombs is Marketing and Public Relations Director at Dine' College in Tsaile.)

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