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Centre is all about city’s little ones

New early learning centre for kids took a lot of hard work by a lot of people in New West
early years centre
From left, Claudia Qin helps her three-year-old daughter, Katherine Cen with a craft while three-year-old Mariecel Castillo admires her handiwork with her mom, Mary Ann at a session of the Lower Mainland Purpose Society’s Fun Learning and You (FLY) program at Qayqayt Elementary School’s newly funded Early Years Centre.

The zero to five crowd has a new place to hang out thanks to the hard work of early childhood learning advocates in the city.

New Westminster school trustees and district staff were among the folks gathered at Qayqayt Elementary School Tuesday to celebrate the official opening of the B.C. Early Years Centre, which is set to become the city’s newest hub for early childhood learning. The centre is the fruit of more than a decade of work by non-profit groups and community organizations with the Kids New West Child Development Committee.

“All the early childhood development organizations, service providers and non-profits really came together, created a vision and have really worked hard to work collaboratively together, and this is one of the fruits of our labours,” said Dawn Embree, executive director of the Lower Mainland Purpose Society. “It took a lot of dedication and a lot of time putting our own personal agendas aside and going, ‘What is best for this community? And what is best for families and children within this community?’”

Collaboration was key to getting the new centre up and running, Embree added.

The purpose of the Qayqayt Early Years Centre is to be a hub for programs aimed at early childhood education so while the Purpose Society will oversee its management, partner groups like New Westminster Family Place, Family Services of Greater Vancouver, Cameray Child and Family Services and New Westminster parks and recreation will offer programs for children and families out of the space.

Programs already up and running at the centre include: Fun Learning and You (FLY); Preschool Exploration; Cameray Family Literacy Circle; and the New Westminster Family Place Grandparents Meetup.

The school district, meanwhile, provides the physical space to house all these programs at its Qayqayt Neighbourhood Learning Centre.

“Being actually in the school creates all kinds of opportunities both for the families and the parents to get familiar with the school, maybe meet the principal, meet the teachers, but also, and what we wanted to build upon is having some links with the older kids in the school,” Embree said. “The sky’s the limit in terms of what we can really do.”

The Early Years Centre was one of 21 facilities across the province to be approved for funding from the Provincial Office for the Early Years last February. Purpose will oversee the management of the funds, which each year will be $52,000, according to a press release from the province.