Early Learning Academy fosters an educational environment for children


Gaby Velasquez

Two sisters, Lexie Rangel and Addison Rangel, play at the YWCA.

Jake Deven, Contributor

While UTEP students, faculty and staff across campus spend their days studying and working, there are more than 70 children finger painting, solving puzzles, being active and eating snacks at the YWCA’s University Heights Early Learning Academy.

Conveniently located near campus, at 315 W. Schuster Ave., the University Heights Early Learning Academy is the child care destination committed to serving the UTEP community. Any parent who works at or attends UTEP may enroll their child in the program, similar to that of a preschool, or simply drop by for a day or so if needed.

While care for children is an issue for all parents, it’s particularly an issue for student-mothers. With the cost of daycare usually being more than the cost of tuition and fees for public colleges, many students with young children aren’t able to go to college because they can’t find or afford someone to take care of the kids while they go to class.

One way to help these moms stay in school is to provide on-campus child care services. This solution provides multiple benefits, it allows parents to get an education while also providing care for their children.

Many UTEP students take on the challenge of balancing an already busy parent life with the demanding schedule of earning a college degree, and some even adding a part-time job into the mix.

“It helps a lot being able to bring my daughter here while I’m in class, especially since it’s so close to campus,” said one UTEP student, whose 4-year-old daughter is enrolled in the program, and chose not to give their name to be published.

The academy is staffed with highly qualified teachers and aides, whose goal is to preserve an educational experience with a curriculum that focuses on experiential-based learning, communication, literacy and problem solving.

The academy’s curriculum consists of social and emotional development, language and communication, reading and writing, mathematics, science, social studies, fine arts, physical development and technology.

With more than 35 years of experience in child care, the YWCA partnered with UTEP in 2012 to develop the learning center that employs teachers that are Texas School Ready, the same certification that teachers of EPISD complete.

“We love being able to help the UTEP community and we take pride in our role as educators to the children of students and faculty,” said Lorraine M. Valles, director of the University Heights Early Learning Academy.

Valles said she focuses on creating an environment in the academy, where parents will feel comfortable dropping their children off for the day.

The University Heights Academy prepares children for kindergarten while enhancing their social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. Teachers engage children in an active learning environment that is play and project based, which focuses on making sure children will be elementary school ready. For more information, visit sa.utep.edu/childcare.