The Berkley Center celebrates its 20th year

TwoatBirthdayPartyThe Edgar L. & Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center, a state-of-the art early childhood school that also serves as a learning laboratory for college students studying education, celebrated 20 years of serving the community’s children with a birthday party on October 5th.  Since its inception, the Berkley Center has served nearly 2,000 children and hundreds of families

Nearly 300 people—current and prior students, families, staff and teacher, and friends—attended the birthday party at the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center on the UMKC campus.  The highlight of the event was a children’s opera, How the Camel Got His Hump, composed by a doctoral student at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Polly Prendergast, director of the Berkley Center welcomed the audience, with Wanda J. Blanchett, Ph.D., School of Education Dean and Ewing Marion Kauffman/Missouri Endowed Chair for Teacher Education briefly speaking to the transformative power of education and sharing some of the success Berkley has achieved over the years.

“I have been blessed to have received a great education and to have had amazingly wonderful experiences and mentors,” stated Blanchett.

“And, I want every child in America, regardless of their ZIP code on the day they are born, their race, ethnicity, native language or the educational background of their parents, to have access to the incredible education I have received.

“Such opportunities can start at early childhood centers like Berkley,” she affirmed.

Blanchett said the Berkley Center:

  • Is recognized as a 4-star quality program by Missouri’s Quality Rating System;
  • Has been recognized in the Kansas City community multiple times in the last 20 years, including winning an award in 2003 from The Whole Child Development Association for Best Practices in partnering with families;
  • Participates in the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) voluntary accreditation process;
  • Is well-known on a local, state and national level for presentations on infant and toddler care and curriculum, the importance of play, anti-bias education and leadership; and
  • Is a leader in early childhood education by offering Continuing Education classes in the evenings since 2010 to support other early childhood centers in the Greater Kansas City Area and has provided on-site training to St. Mark’s and The Goddard Schools.

The event also provided the opportunity to raise funds for new playground equipment at the Berkley Center.  A lead gift commitment of $20,000 was received from the Oppenstein Brothers Foundation for this work this spring and—with nearly $200 raised at the birthday party, $700 in donations from Berkley Center  teachers and staff, commitments from several families and in-kind donations—gifts now total nearly $42,000 for the anticipated $65,000-$80,000 project.

BerkleyBirthdaycupcakesA new custom-built playground will not only save thousands of dollars annually on maintenance and repairs but, more importantly, provide the preschool children with safer cushioning turfs and new equipment. These transformative enhancements will provide more direct educational opportunities while meeting ADA standards, making the playground more accessible to children with different capabilities.

Happy Birthday, Berkley!  And many more.