Tidewater Community College student Molly Feanny used to have to schedule all her classes in the morning so she could pick up her 3-year-old son, Wyatt, from his Head Start program by noon.
"It was very hard juggling," said the 42-year-old Churchland resident. "I was always stressed and rushing to make sure I wasn't late picking him up."
So when Feanny, a single mother, heard in December that TCC was going to open an on-site, licensed child care center at its Portsmouth campus Jan. 13, she was the first in line on sign-up day.
"I got there two hours early. I was expecting a big rush," she said. "I brought my folding chair and everything."
But there was no rush, she said, and no problem getting one of the 38 available spots in the center for Wyatt.
Feanny said the new center has changed the lives of both mother and son, for the better.
"With it being on campus, I can now work 15 hours a week in the science lab and also squeeze in two hours every day to study in the library," she said. "It's almost impossible to study at home with a rambunctious 3-year-old."
Feanny said Wyatt loves his class and his new friends at the child care center, which is operated and staffed by YWCA South Hampton Roads.
"The class is small and they teach him real stuff too, it's not just a day care," Feanny said. "He's learning his alphabet and singing the days of the week now."
Wyatt is one of 31 children enrolled in the new center, the first of four TCC child development centers to open in Hampton Roads. Additional centers will open in Norfolk and Chesapeake this summer and in Virginia Beach in the fall, said TCC spokeswoman Vicki Friedman.
The Portsmouth center has three classrooms, one for 2- and 3-year-olds (must be out of diapers), one for 4- and 5-year-olds, and one for school-age children. Eleven of the facility's 38 spots are designated for after-school care for children up to 12 years old.
The classrooms are bright and engaging with sleek, blonde wooden furniture in diminutive sizes that keeps the staff at the same level as the children. A $8,500 donation made in honor of Mary Ruth Clowdsley, a longtime TCC supporter and former YWCA board member, paid for educational books, games and toys used in the classes.
Christie Adams, program manager for TCC's development centers, said all the feedback from parents has been positive.
"Students can pop in to see their children between classes, they can eat lunch together or play with them - whatever they want," Adams said. "We have an open door policy."
Feanny said that is an aspect of the program she appreciates.
"I like how close (Wyatt) is and that I can get to him in two minutes," she said. "It's also super affordable."
Taking care of a concern like child care can help TCC students be more successful, said campus Provost Michelle Woodhouse.
"We know that many of our students have children," she said. "Often, child care is an issue. I've seen them bring children with them to take an exam. That's why this program is just so crucial."
In addition to the benefit for enrolled parents, students in TCC's early childhood education program will be able to use the center as a learning lab, Woodhouse said.
The center is on the first floor of the new student center and is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Cost for TCC students is based on annual income, and ranges from $250 to $450 per month for full-time care. Part-time enrollment (up to 4 hours daily) and hourly drop-in care also are available. Financial aid can be applied toward the cost, Woodhouse said. Currently, the center is only available to TCC students and employees.
Lia Russell, 222-5562, firstname.lastname@example.org