March 24, 2022/St. Louis, Missouri – The lack of quality affordable childcare is a key contributing factor to the post pandemic workforce shortage. YWCA Metro St. Louis announced it is spearheading the effort to open an early childhood education center in 39 North in space owned by the Miriam School and Learning Center at 1138 N. Warson Rd, Olivette, MO 63132. The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and city of Olivette have been collaborating with YWCA to bring this much needed new asset to the 600-acre innovation district.
The center will serve both the innovation district’s workforce and the community. The scheduled opening is Fall 2023 and will initially serve 70 children with plans to expand to serve 170 children at full capacity.
“It’s so appropriate we are making this announcement during Women’s History Month,” said Dr. Cheryl Watkins, MBA, YWCA President and CEO. “Access to childcare is the single most limiting factor for women in the workforce. If parents can’t find quality care for their children, they can’t work. Creating a space for children to thrive creates a space for families to thrive.”
YWCA and Early Childhood Education
Harnessing its expertise in early childhood education as the largest provider of Head Start and Early Head Start services in the region, YWCA’s new facility will be more than a drop-off daycare, the center will feature a STEAM-based curriculum designed to foster a lifelong love of learning. The partnership with the Danforth Center and the agtech community in 39 North will enrich the experience by integrating plant life science and innovation into the curriculum to expand the children’s knowledge.
Underscoring its strength in early childhood learning, YWCA’s Stacy Johnson, Chief Program Officer and Director, YWCA Head Start/Early Head Start, was recently recognized as Head Start Administrator of the Year by the state of Missouri. YWCA Metro St. Louis also was invited to become a nationally accredited Program of Excellence by the National Head Start Association (NHSA), an opportunity only accorded to select organizations.
“Innovation districts are created to bring resources and connectivity to companies and entrepreneurs,” said Stephanie Regagnon, executive director of Innovation Partnerships at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. “39 North provides world-class infrastructure, highly-skilled talent and access to tools companies need to launch and grow their business. We know that quality, affordable childcare is essential for a thriving workforce and will be a vital new amenity for company recruitment to our innovation community. We are thrilled that the YWCA, a nationally recognized leader in early childhood education, is filling that gap.”
“The opportunity for children to be exposed to the agtech community at an early age is really exciting,” said Janet Wilding, vice president of major projects, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. “We are thrilled YWCA is bringing this critical amenity to 39 North.”
“Miriam School and Learning Center has been looking for a quality tenant to utilize the unused space in our building,” said Bill Florent, Interim Executive Director at Miriam. “As an educational organization, we know the importance of providing affordable early childhood education for the community and are excited to be working on this project.”
Olivette’s Mayor Sidney Clark adds, “The city of Olivette is proud to partner with YWCA Metro St. Louis to bring an early childcare center to our community. All children deserve equitable learning experiences, and we look forward to being a part of transformative change for children and their families.”
YWCA hopes to repeat this model at other locations around the community, and it hopes that the partnership is noted and replicated around the world. “It took dedicated community leaders to come together to make this happen, and we hope others are inspired to follow our example for the benefit of children and their families,” added Dr. Watkins.