Improving access to early education, fueling children’s natural passion for learning

A child and teacher take part in an educational coloring activity
The Schoenbaum Family Center's Summer Children's Scholarship Program offers high-quality early childhood education for children from birth through age five.

At just three years of age, Alexander has already developed an insatiable love for learning.

“He can read little words, spell his name and knows the name of every dinosaur that ever crawled this earth,” says his grandmother Ida Bryant Shabazz, whom he affectionately calls Sugar Mama. He has been in Ida’s custody since he was just seven months old.

But Ida, who is raising Alexander and his sister Angel like they are her own, is doing all she can to ensure a bright future for the children—and that means sending them to Schoenbaum Family Center’s A. Sophie Rogers School for Early Learning. The program offers high-quality early childhood education for children from birth through age five, says principal Anneliese Johnson. And thanks to Ohio State employee donations to the Schoenbaum Family Center’s Summer Children’s Scholarship Program (Fund #315961) through Campus Campaign, these opportunities are available to children year-round.

Families who rely on outside funding to assist with tuition are sometimes limited to a September through May school year—interrupting children’s learning and making it nearly impossible for a working family to find child care during the summer. “What happens is parents who are working often choose lower-quality programs because it fits their working schedule,” says Anneliese. “They don’t have the luxury of choosing a high-quality program like ours.” Donations to the scholarship program are critical in improving access for families from all the diverse socioeconomic backgrounds Schoenbaum Family Center attracts.

Even when a family faces financial challenges — as Ida does while raising her grandchildren — they have access to the school’s excellent teachers and research-based curriculum all year. Ida attributes the fact that her second-grade granddaughter Angel currently reads at a fifth-grade level to her stellar early childhood education at Schoenbaum Family Center. Alexander is following in his big sister’s footsteps; as a preschooler, he’s already prepared for first grade. “I just love everybody at Schoenbaum,” says Ida. “Everyone has been so good to us and has taken such good care of both my kids.”

In addition to the early learning program, the family stays closely involved with other Schoenbaum Family Center offerings, including the library, counseling services, evening storybook time and more. “We take advantage of everything they offer,” says Ida. “And whatever the child is interested in, they incorporate that into their sessions. They did a whole thing on dinosaurs, which my baby can just inhale,” she laughs.

It’s this passion for early learning that motivates Kirsten Wycuff, director of stewardship at the College of Education and Human Ecology, to support the scholarship program through Campus Campaign. As a graduate of the college, she knows firsthand the importance of quality early childhood education. “We know how important a child’s early education is for how they learn for the rest of their lives,” says Kirsten. “Having a safe and secure place to learn will help drive these children for the rest of their education. It’s so critical that you start early.”  

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