Early Childhood Education major Nadia Olivares is in her third semester at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY). Her four-year-old son attends BMCC as well — for a year, he has focused on fine-motor skills, letter recognition and more, at the BMCC Early Childhood Center.
“Knowing my child is in good hands at the Center allows me to focus on my education,” says Olivares, who adds that the Center’s approach is aligned with principles of early childhood education she is learning in her own studies at BMCC. “Being at the Center puts our kids ahead of other pre-school aged children. It prepares them for kindergarten.”
Olivares and five other BMCC students — Claudia Bencosme, Gregoire Boisrond, Olivia Peart, Ricardo Rodriguez and Kiara Vera — shared their experience of having children in the BMCC Early Childhood Center, as they attended or provided testimony for a hearing on CUNY Child Care Centers held February 14 at the City Hall Council Chambers in Lower Manhattan.
Douglas Israel, BMCC Director of Government and Community Relations, accompanied the students to the hearing along with Cecilia Scott-Croff, Executive Director of the BMCC Early Childhood Center.
The hearing was partially in response to a proposed cut in New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s preliminary budget for childcare facilities on 18 CUNY campuses.
It was jointly hosted by the New York City Council’s Committee on Higher Education, chaired by Councilmember Inez Barron, and the Committee on Women’s Issues, chaired by Councilmember Laurie Cumbo.
Nursing major Claudia Bencosme, whose four-year-old son attends the BMCC Early Childhood Center, said in her testimony, “It’s not just some place that watches kids while their parents are in school. The program is excellent. Our children learn new things through play, and the Childhood Center provides a support system for the parents.”
According to Scott-Croff, the decrease in funding to CUNY child care centers “threatens our ability to provide low-cost quality programming for the children of student parents. In addition, cuts to childcare impact BMCC’s mission to support students’ persistence, retention and graduation.”
“We are pleased to see our BMCC students making such a strong and compelling case for the CUNY childcare centers,” said Israel. “Their voice is important to this discussion and will hopefully help ensure these centers receive the support they deserve.”
Student parent Bencosme sums it up another way: “The BMCC Early Childhood Center means second opportunities. It means trust, community, values, equality and respect. As student parents, we have the chance to pursue dreams that would not be possible, if it weren't for the Early Childhood Center at BMCC.”
Inset Photo (L-R): Olivia Peart, Gregoire Boisrond, Kiara Vera, Cecilia Scott-Croff, Claudia Bencosme (not shown: Nadia Olivares and Ricardo Rodriguez)