Eastern Shawnee tribe break ground on expansion of child development center
The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma broke ground Feb. 14 on a $1 million expansion of its Early Childhood Learning Center, 10205 S. Bluejacket Rd, Grove, OK 74344. Funding for the project comes from the Tribe’s Child Care Development Fund Program and from a $250,000 grant from the Shakopee Tribe of Minnesota.
Four years ago, Eastern Shawnee Chief Glenna Wallace realized that the lack of childcare in the area had reached a tipping point. “We had numerous calls for childcare in the area but had only four small home daycares near us and they seldom had opening in their programs. No churches had programs. We are in the extreme northeast corner of Oklahoma on the Missouri line, and the nearest daycare program is eight miles away, but they did not take anyone under the age of three. Our program accommodates children six weeks old to five years of age. Other daycare programs are 15-20 miles away. So we truly had a need to serve our children,” Wallace said.
When the Center was established, there were 20 children ages six weeks to five years. Today it’s reached maximum capacity at 76 kiddos. The Center also has summer and after-school programs, bringing its total count to 130. “For a rural, isolated area, those numbers prove an educational program was needed,” Wallace said.
To fund that initial program, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe obtained an $800,000 HUD Grant, which the tribe supplemented with approximately $400,000. The Shakopee Tribe stepped in and funded a connecting saferoom which is a tremendous asset.
“The Shakopees, a tribe in Minnesota, are well known and admired for their foundation that assists so many tribes, so many projects. We contacted the Shakopees and explained our need. They graciously assisted us then and because of the success we have had with our program and because of the need we have to expand, they are graciously assisting us now,” she said.
The Early Childhood Learning Center utilizes the Oklahoma Early Learning Guidelines, Missouri Early Learning Goals and the Creative Curriculum. Each these curricula start from birth and work through age five with the ultimate goal of providing a foundation for social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. The Pre-K goals focus on Kindergarten readiness in all developmental domains. Each stage (birth, toddler, early Pre-K and Pre-K) focuses on what is developmentally appropriate.
“We also have our After School Program which focuses on assisting the children in their school work as well as providing academic and social/emotional support,” Wallace said. “We also include tribal/cultural topics/activities in our curriculum. They learn beginning Shawnee language along with social dances. They performed the Duck Dance at our groundbreaking. Our emphasis has always been upon education: teaching, learning, not babysitting.”
The Center is open to all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or ability. About 60% of the children are members of a Federally Recognized Tribe.
The Eastern Shawnee Tribe is a caring tribe, always ready to make the lives of people in its community better. “When our citizens are in need or our neighbors in our community are in need, we want to do what we can to address those needs. We needed childcare during the day for young children. We needed after school care for our elementary students. And we needed summer school when the public schools were closed. We have been able to address all of these needs,” Wallace said. “What a privilege it is to be able to serve our citizens and the community at large.”