INA, Ill. (Oct. 18, 2018) – Rend Lake College students and graduates, faculty and staff, and children of all ages came together last week to celebrate two decades of learning for the smallest Warriors on campus. The RLC Foundation Children’s Center officially turned 20 this fall and everyone gathered for a birthday party.
The event opened with an introduction from Kay Zibby-Damron, RLC Foundation CEO. She briefly covered the Foundation’s history with the Children’s Center.
The desire for a children’s center was the number one need cited by students and staff in the 1988 North Central Accreditation Report for the college a decade before the RLCFCC opened its doors. Because of the efforts of two major donors – Marjorie Farrar and Coyn Mateer – the Foundation Board was able to complete the fund raising challenge and open the RLCFCC doors in the Fall of 1998. Farrar made the initial lead gift of $100,000 in 1995, which was matched by Mateer.
In 2014, Farrar and her family made a second $100,000 donation to aid in fund raising efforts to construct the Skill Development Room. This donation was followed by a significant gift from an anonymous donor, and the doors to the expansion opened in the fall of 2016. The new 1,500-square-foot Skill Development Room – where the birthday party celebration was held – provides the children with an indoor recreational space and a learning library.
“I want you to know, on behalf of the Foundation, that we’re extremely grateful for all the businesses and individuals who care about our college and care about our students, and who offer us their financial support,” said Kay Zibby-Damron.
The RLCFCC has, for 20 years, served as a hands-on learning lab for students enrolled in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program. Current RLCFCC Director Brooke May was one of the first students to utilize the center as a student. In fact, all of the current teacher’s assistants employed at the RLCFCC are graduates of the ECE program.
“Looking back at my time spent in the Children’s Center as an ECE student when the doors were first opened brings nothing but great memories,” said May. “The Children’s Center holds a very special place in my heart and I am beyond proud that I now have the privilege of being the Director and the opportunity to interact with and mentor this generation of ECE students and teachers.”
Brenda Heinzmann, ECE Professor, also addressed the audience at the celebration, speaking about the Center’s history from her perspective. Heinzmann was the first Preschool teacher hired at the RLCFCC in 1998. She also served as the Assistant Director for two years before taking on the Director position in 2000.
“When we first thought about opening this center, there were three things they told us. You need to have quality care, you have to make sure it’s a developmental lab for your students, and you have to have 75 percent of your students as the children of Rend Lake College students,” said Heinzmann. “We thought sometimes that we would never see the doors open because of construction and weather delays, but they finally did. We worked our tails off to get the Center ready to go. We had so much to do. But it was so fun and we were so excited. It was a wonderful time.”
Heinzmann continued, “Fast forward 20 years, the Children’s Center is today what it is because of three factors. Number one, the Rend Lake College Foundation. They were financially the reason we were allowed to be what we are. The second thing was the administrators who came in and said, ‘This is an asset to our campus to have these young children here every day.’ And the third, and most importantly in my book, is the labor force of people who come here every day and do such an awesome job. I’m like the proud momma who says, ‘Those are my girls,’ because so many of you have gone through the program. Happy birthday to the Rend Lake College Foundation Children’s Center.”
The RLCFCC has been licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) since opening in 1998. Since 2000, they have also maintained accreditation from the National Association of the Education of Young Children. In 2014, they became the first Gold Circle of Quality program in the state from ExceleRate Illinois. The RLCFCC has also maintained the Early Childhood Block Grant for Preschool since 2005.
To learn more about the RLCFCC, visit www.rlc.edu/children-s-center or call 618-437-5321, Ext. 1393.