When it comes to young children, we try to help in any way we can.
This often means supporting area caregivers like Webster Square Day Care Center, Inc., a private, nonprofit program serving 60 young children. When the program needed a new facility in 2019, our own Executive Director Eve Gilmore was there to lend a hand.
“Eve was paramount in connecting us with funders and just being our support system,” explains Webster Square Program Coordinator Di-Ann Ethier, M.Ed. “[The team at Edward Street] are amazing advocates for early childhood. Their connections and resources are critical in helping programs and educators advocate for themselves.”
Webster Square Day Care Center soon found space within St. Mary Health Care Center, with a view of the city and bathrooms in every classroom. However, the next chapter of their story had just begun.
A redesigned space and a bridge across generations
As incredible as their new location was, funding was needed to convert office spaces into classrooms and to install a handicap accessible bathroom, security system, and central air and heating. Again, Edward Street was there to help.
“They’re the ones that guided us,” she explains. “They connected us with funding opportunities and helped spread the word about the work we do.”
Soon, remodeling was finished and the Webster Square team were back doing what they do best—teaching, listening, and providing a pat on the back or a gentle nudge forward—in an atmosphere beaming with positivity and potential.
The program also now has the benefit of sharing its building with a senior living facility. Ethier notes that many students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and may not have opportunities to enjoy time with grandparents. To them, the building is their community and the seniors are their neighbors.
“Most of them say, ‘We’re going to see our grandpas and grandmas,’” she says. “These kids have really bonded with the more consistent residents.” Seniors often go downstairs to read to the children or for intergenerational activities like music therapy. Birthdays are also celebrated together: congratulations, you’re two!... or one hundred and two!!
Of course, a wonderful space with great neighbors is one thing. Knowing how to work with young children is something else. For this, Ethier and Lead Teacher Gabby Daniels give a nod to Edward Street Master Teacher Jo Ann Borinski.
“She helped me see myself in a different way”
Borinski, who observes and coaches staff at childcare facilities across Worcester, makes weekly visits to Webster Square. With years of early childhood experience, as well as expertise in trauma response, she’s a mentor for young children and educators alike, including Daniels.
“I was completely new to the field,” says the former elementary school teacher, for whom Borinski modeled effective techniques and offered weekly feedback. “She helped me see myself in a different way.”
Ultimately, it’s young children who benefit from such teamwork. After all, effective early childhood education and care has been shown time and again to improve academic performance through high school, and health and financial success in adulthood.
“We are very, very fortunate in Worcester to have Edward Street,” says Ethier. “I don’t think there’s anyone in early childhood or around the city who wouldn’t say the same thing.”