ASUU dedicates playground

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

Chalen Brown stands with a partially eaten M&M cookie in each hand, watching her three kids play on the newly renovated playground the ASUU Senior Class Council dedicated Friday as this year’s class gift.

Suddenly, her 6-year-old son, Ethan, comes running toward her, crying because he fell coming off the slides. It’s mom to the rescue.

Brown, a senior in exercise and sport science, has been sending her children to the Associated Students of the University of Utah Child Care Center since Ethan was a year and a half old. Now, her two daughters, ages 3 and 4, spend about 20 hours each week at the center.

“It’s probably the only way I would have gotten my degree,” Brown said. “My husband and I are both students…and with little income, trying to go elsewhere — there’s no way we could afford that.”

Senior Class President Nicole Nguyen said the council chose to fund renovations of the ASUU Child Care Center playground to show support for non-traditional students.

The renovation of the playground, located between the Alfred Emery Building and the James Talmage Building, was a fulfillment of Nguyen’s commitment to completing a senior class gift before students graduated this year.

Although none of the student leaders have children, Nguyen said they know how difficult school can be even as traditional students.

“We recognize the challenges that face student parents,” she said.

Through fundraising efforts and contributions from the ASUU Senate and General Assembly, the council was able to donate $25,000 to renovate the playground used by the child care center, which was more than 25 years old and no longer passed safety codes.

Jackie Kemp, director of the ASUU Child Care Center, said the new playground is more age-appropriate and will allow the center to bring the learning environment outside the classroom.

The playground has five learning components: a musical instrument area to teach children to explore sound, a climbing area and bike path to develop gross motor skills, a playhouse for social and emotional development, an art area for children to creatively express feelings and a sand and water play area for sensory exploration.

The playground will also include a sand area and garden area, but these have not yet been completed. Kemp said the garden will help children understand the growth process.

“This continually improves the quality care for students by allowing them to focus on schooling and not have to worry about their children receiving quality experiences,” Kemp said.

The ASUU Child Care Center currently serves 85 families and 106 children but has the capacity to care for more, especially during the afternoons, Kemp said.

Children from ages 12 months to 5 years are welcome at the center, which offers part-time hours and a sliding fee scale, allowing parents to pay based on their income. The center is subsidized by a federal grant.

“All students have barriers as they start their education, but students with children face added barriers at the expense of child care,” Child Care Coordinator Kris Hale said.

Hale said ASUU’s support of the playground was timely because the center had been working on the renovations for about four years. Hale said it hopes to finish the playground by July.

After being at the U for eight years, Brown and her husband will both graduate this May. Brown’s husband, Nathan, who is receiving a master’s degree in nuclear engineering, said the child care center has helped the family immensely.

“It’s mainly made it possible for my wife to graduate,” Brown said. “Having children has taken up a lot of her time, but this has made it so she has time to study.”

The senior class also dedicated a rock in the playground to express how they feel about children, Nguyen said. The rock is engraved with the message, “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

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The new Child Care playground was dedicated Friday evening. The Senior Class gave a donation to help pay for the reconstruction.