Meredith College launched the Wings After School Program this fall, a child care program for children 5-12 years old. Over the last few years, data taken from a quality of life survey found that Meredith employees wanted more child care opportunities. This data, coupled with an increase in the number of Wings students and non-traditional students, was the driving force behind the creation of the program.
This program is seen as an extension of the existing child care programs offered on Meredith’s campus like the Ellen Brewer House and the Meredith Autism Program (MAP).
The Wings After School Program was primarily created to better support the program’s namesake, the Wings students, as they balance home life and the demands of further education, while also serving the needs of Meredith faculty and staff; however, the program is open to the surrounding community.
With a rolling admission, the program is able to welcome children throughout the year. Enrollment is limited to 25 to ensure an appropriate child to teacher ratio. Open Monday through Friday, following the academic calendar, participants may come as often as the family needs throughout the week. The program is constantly improving in an effort to better accommodate the needs of the families, including extending the hours and providing limited transportation as needed.
Using campus facilities, the program incorporates many unique activities such as taking a field trip to Studio Theatre to see the set of an upcoming theater production or learning how to play kickball in Weatherspoon Gym. The after school program strives to provide a balanced and structured schedule with designated homework, activity, and snack times, as well as free play and events during the afternoon.
“Children participate in campus-wide events like Can Art. We try to get them to do different things and use the campus as much as we can,” said Director Cece Toole, professor of education. “We want our participants to interact with the campus life – students, faculty, and staff – while also giving them a structured format.”
As an alumna who majored in child development with a K-6 licensure, Tisha Duncan, ’99, now associate professor of education and part of the committee backing the program, always had the desire to incorporate an on campus lab program into the education curriculum for students to get hands-on experience.
She sees this program as a benefit to the entire campus, not just parents. Faculty, staff, and Wings students can use the program as affordable, quality care for their children. Meredith students benefit from the hands-on experience of working with children of multiple ages.
“Through the years, the population of Meredith students has changed. Many students don’t have access to cars or vehicles. We wanted to provide them with the opportunity to work and gain experience with the program’s teachers as interns and student teachers while on campus,” said Duncan.
As well as being a benefit to the Meredith community, Toole hopes that the surrounding community will take advantage of this program. Toole got involved with the Wings After School Program because she previously started a summer enrichment program through the education department that is geared towards girls in rising first through eighth grades. Through the summer program, she has seen the positive impact of bringing the community onto campus. She hopes that through the afterschool program the intertwining between Meredith’s campus and the surrounding community will become even stronger.
The Wings After School Program was made possible by a one-year grant provided by the Jessie Ball duPont Foundation as well as generous donations from the Meredith community. The program will need the support of the community to be able to grow and stand on its own in the coming years.
“I hope that it grows in a way that makes it sustainable but doesn’t take away the personal attention they are able to give each child. It is a very valuable service for faculty and for Wings students,” said Shannon Grimes, head of the department of religious and ethical studies and mother of a child enrolled in the program.
Learn more at https://www.meredith.edu/adult-education/after-school-program or email email@example.com for more information or to donate to the program.