10:24 AM

$1.4 million federal grant will fund day care for STC student parents


Student parent Myra De la Garza (above) addresses attendees at the announcement of a $1.4 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education that will pay for the tuition and fees at STC’s Child Development Center at its Mid-Valley Campus.

Eligible student parents attending South Texas College can soon have their child care tuition and fees covered thanks in part to a grant recently presented to the college’s Child Development Center by the U.S. Department of Education.

In a ceremony at STC’s Starr County campus, Congressman Henry Cuellar presented a $1.4 million Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program grant to the college’s Child Development Center located at STC’s Mid-Valley campus.

The grant is slated to be distributed over four years, and leadership with the college say the funds will help improve academic retention and degree completion.

"Balancing school and a family are never easy, but this grant is going to make academic retention and degree completion possible for many of our student parents by providing the affordable child care they need," said STC President Ricardo J. Solis, Ph.D. "They are now going to have the opportunity to attend STC, graduate and get the life-changing career they are working towards to better support their families. This grant provides effective support structures that promote persistence, educational attainment, academic achievement and professional and personal growth. It is fostering our students' success."

Rep. Cuellar was joined by STC’s Board of Trustees and administrators along with leadership, staff and parents from the Mid-Valley Child Development Center.

“The CCAMPIS grant will help to support low-income students and their families enrolled at South Texas College in completing their degree by providing high-quality, affordable child care at the Mid-Valley campus Child Development Center for child care services." 

Veronica Rodriguez, program chair at Mid-Valley Child Development Center.

“Because of this program, many young South Texans who would have otherwise dropped out of school, will now have the opportunity to graduate from college,” Cuellar said. “CCAMPIS allows parents to put their education first without putting their child second. As a Senior Member of the House Appropriations Committee, ensuring funding for the CCAMPIS program has been a priority of mine. In FY22, the program received $65 million in federal funding, a $10 million

increase over the previous year. I want to thank Dr. Ricardo Solis for his leadership at South Texas College and for implementing programs like ACCESS that are a tool for young students to excel in higher education.”

The Assistance in Child Care and Enhanced Support Services (ACCESS) Project, which will be funded by CCAMPIS, will provide childcare services and academic support services for 45 Pell-eligible participants.

Rogelio Hernandez, a student parent who recently came back to STC after 10 years to pursue his bachelor’s degree in Medical and Health Service Management, said the Mid-Valley center assisted him and his wife with care for their four children as they worked to earn their degrees.

“We have had a long history with the child development center, and all of our children have attended at some point from our now 13-year-old to our 8-year-old, and now finally our twins who have just turned three,” Hernandez said. “I recently returned to school. I took about eight years off to allow my wife to get her master's degree. It would have been really hard to make it possible without the assistance of the child development center.”

At STC, more than 75% of student parents have said they would not be able to attend college without CCAMPIS aid.

Through ACCESS, plans will be enacted to expand the capacity of the Mid-Valley campus Child Development Center by adding two infant/toddler classrooms to its current facilities as well as provide funding to hire highly qualified teachers to staff the additional classrooms.

“The CCAMPIS grant will help to support low-income students and their families enrolled at South Texas College in completing their degree by providing high-quality, affordable child care at the Mid-Valley campus Child Development Center for child care services,” said Veronica Rodriguez, assistant professor and program chair at the Center.

Rodriguez has overseen operations of the program for the last 13 years, and not only has she witnessed the continuation of the center living out both its vision and mission, but also an increase in the number of children being enrolled into the center every semester.

“Reducing child care costs for students helps them more likely to continue their educational goals,” she said. “Identifying and obtaining funding sources that reduce students’ costs helps break down barriers in achieving those goals.”

Since opening its doors in 2006, STC’s Child Development Center has served over 800 families with children ranging in age from 12 months to 12 years of age. The center is available to all current STC students, staff, faculty and community members.

At its core is a commitment to providing a program that meets the needs of children in the areas of cognitive, physical, social, emotional, creative and language development.

The Mid-Valley Center is the only child care facility in the Rio Grande Valley to have the prestigious National Accreditation Commission (NAC) for Early Care and Education Programs designation. The other closest facility is in Corpus Christi.

To earn the NAC accreditation, a center has to exceed state licensing requirements in many important areas, including health, safety, curriculum, student/teacher interaction and parental involvement.

The Center also brandishes a national accreditation as a four-star rated Texas Rising Star Program while serving as a global model for hands-on learning for adult students and a “living laboratory” for ongoing children’s research.

“As a parent, I always a worry about who is taking care of my kids but these ladies are wonderful. They make you feel like family,” said Myra De la Garza, a parent who has had all four of her children ranging in ages from 7 to 1 years old at the center. “My daughters love the people there. That's how you know everything's going great because my daughters run towards them when they see them. I think that’s great for everyone involved.”

For more information on STC’s Child Development Center at the Mid-Valley campus please visit www.southtexascollege.edu/child-development-center/ or call 956-447-1254.