New Growing Tree facility sprouts on 32nd Street

Written by on June 25, 2019

Western New Mexico University’s Growing Tree Program is set to move into its new facility by this August.

Growing Tree is a five-star, nationally accredited infant and toddler care program offered by the Western New Mexico University Early Childhood Programs that has been serving parenting teens in Silver City for 30 years.

The program was founded decades ago under former Program Director Terry Anderson. 

“They recognized a need for providing support to the teen parents in this community,” said Shannon Rivera, executive director of Early Childhood Programs, “so they decided to put [Growing Tree] on the Opportunity High School campus.”

Because the Early Childhood Program was initially founded to provide care to parents who were full-time students at WNMU, the need served by Growing Tree was familiar territory for them. It was created with the goal of “allowing [teen parents] the opportunity to continue their education, and providing qualified infant and toddler staff who could work with them,” Rivera said, “not just for child care, but also by connecting them with training and resources that could support them as new parents.”

In a period of major transition last year, Opportunity High School was absorbed into the Silver High School campus, while the old Growing Tree building behind it was torn down and rebuilt at the same location. 

During this transition, the Early Childhood Programs continued offering services to parents at Silver High School in addition to those at WNMU from its main location on campus. 

“We brought the children and families to our program and set up a separate room in order to continue providing our services to that population,” said Program Administrator Elaine Howard. “Now we’re just waiting to move them all back.”

The new building in which these families — along with any other families who seek Early Childhood Programs services — will be placed is much improved from the building that had been home to the program since it began.

The old facility had issues with flooding, cooling and heating, as well as having suffered from general wear and tear. Together with some logistical issues in its layout, this prompted funding from the district’s general obligation bonds to remove and replace the entire facility.

“[The building] was coming to a place where it wasn’t going to meet licensing standards any longer,” Rivera said.

The new building was structured in a way that supports the Growing   Tree Program in serving parenting teens and caring for their children. 

“Silver Schools invited us to meet with the architects who were planning the building,” Rivera said. “We were able to actually help design the building to make sure it would meet our needs.”

The construction of this new facility was a unique project, as there were a mix of guidelines that needed to be met in order for the program to receive licensing from the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department and accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. 

“[The building] was required to have a certain amount of square footage per child,” Howard said. “Inside, we had to have 35 square feet for each child, and outside we had to have 75 square feet for each child.”

The building is made up of an office space, a workroom, an infant classroom, a toddler classroom and a bathroom that is accessible to both classrooms. 

“The Growing Tree’s mission has always been to provide care to infants and toddlers,” Howard said. “The building will support 12 toddler children and six infant children.”

Growing Tree is set to begin offering services at its new location this August. 

“We’re hoping to begin moving some things in on Wednesday,” Howard said. “But that may change.”

“We’re excited to continue our partnership with Silver Schools in offering high quality infant and toddler care,” Rivera added. 

When it opens, Growing Tree will continue to focus on providing care for full-time students who attend Silver High School or WNMU. Any of the 18 total spots that are not filled by the children of these students will be available to other kids. Silver High School and WNMU staff will take priority in filling these positions, followed by members of the general community.

At this point, there are nine spots filled for the Growing Tree Program. 

“There are some spots available,” Howard said. “A couple of those will be filled by parents from Silver High School. For anyone other than students, there is a waiting list.”

Admissions for the program are carried out at the main office on campus at Sechler-Rhodes Hall, 513 W. 12th St. in Silver City.

David Marquez may be reached at david@scdaily press.com.

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