When Jessica Reed of El Reno graduated from high school in 2018, she knew she wanted to work with children. When she started working at the Canadian Valley Child Development Center, she heard about the Scholars for Excellence in Child Care Program offered at Redlands Community College.
“It was a way to further my education while doing something I love,” said Reed, who has already earned her Certificate of Mastery in child care through the program. “The child care classes get you involved and ready for any problem that could occur. It’s helped me achieve my goals and set new ones. It also helps me figure out where I want to go with it. There are so many pathways in child care you can choose from, and this helps me find out what I want to do.”
Reed is one of hundreds of child care providers who have taken part in the Scholars for Excellence in Child Care program at Redlands. The program, administered through the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, awards scholarships to eligible child care professionals to complete coursework in the area of child development or early childhood education.
The Program is available online at Redlands Community College to students who are interested in pursuing a career working with children and families. The program is designed for students and professionals who work directly with young children, like a family care provider, an early childhood classroom teacher, a Head Start teacher and child care workers.
The Scholars program awards scholarships to eligible child care professionals to complete coursework in the area of child development or early childhood education, as well as the Child Development Associate (CDA) and Certificate of Mastery in Child Development. These scholarships enable child care providers in Oklahoma to improve their skills through education, receive an educational stipend and continue the availability of quality child care in local communities.
“This is a scholarship for working adults in the child care field. What we do is we go to child care directors and centers and we talk to them about getting more education for them and their staff in the field. It increases knowledge for the person who is caring for the children,” said Karen Huett, scholar coordinator for the Scholars for Excellence in Child Care at Redlands Community College. “It helps them to be able to be better equipped to deal with what comes up with children, mostly children from 10 and under. The Scholars program is only for people who work in child care, either from their home or in a center, and they have to have a license with the Department of Human Services.”
The program also requires that enrollees work at least 30 hours a week in the field, Huett said. When accepted, students at Redlands receive 90 percent off tuition and free textbooks for the courses after any Pell grant is applied.
The Scholars for Excellence in Child Care began 20 years ago when the state formed a group to create a scholarship to help support the STARS program at DHS. The STARS program rates each child care provider, home care provider or child care center, according to their qualifications, with one to three stars.
“What I do is support the people who qualify. I help them apply for the scholarship, enroll in college, and go through the process of gaining a certificate or degree. Those enrolled can do it all online, though there are a few classes where they may have to come to the college if they choose,” Huett said.
This allows students to earn a Certificate of Mastery in child development and then go on to earn the Family Studies Associate in Arts degree. On average, Huett has 50 to 60 students enrolled in the Scholars for Excellence in Child Care program each semester.
“These are working adults, so they typically take around two to three classes a semester. They're working 30 to 40 hours a week and they're going to school part time, plus taking care of children,” Huett said. “This has been a really hard year on child care providers because their children are at home using their equipment for school. And then when it's their turn, it's very difficult for them.”
In her role as coordinator, Huett acts as a personal advisor coordinator to help enrollees with technical assistance, applications for the scholarship admissions and financial aid, and applications for graduation. Redlands Community College also provides academic and career advice.
“I go and see them at least once a semester, if not twice. That's part of my job,” Huett said. “This scholarship program benefits the students who are working with children. The student gains more confidence and knowledge in child care, they're better equipped to deal with safety and behavior and they learn the different theories in child care.”
The students also become recognized as a master teacher by DHS based on their experience and accredited knowledge.
“Our hope is that they get paid more and that they go on for their bachelor's degree. After they leave Redlands, they can apply for a bachelor's degree scholarship as well,” said Huett.
For more information about the Redlands Scholars for Excellence in Child Care, visit www.redlandscc.edu or call 405.422.1287 or 405.422.1286.