The program itself was a first for community colleges in Kansas and now one of its participants is the first in Great Bend to fulfill its requirements.
Monica Gonzalez is the first person locally to earn the Child Development Associate “home visitor” designation through a work-study program co-sponsored by Sunflower’s Early Education Center and Barton Community College. Gonzalez is an EEC early intervention specialist for children age birth through 3.
“Earning this CDA is a nice honor and adds to the important things I have learned here at the EEC and in my college courses,” Gonzalez said. “This process has allowed me to reflect on all that I have studied in early intervention, while applying it to the children with developmental delays and disabilities that I serve.
“It was a lot of work but well worth it,” she added. “This has given me even more incentive to continue my education.”
That formal education also now includes an associate’s degree in early childhood from BCC. The next step is a bachelor’s through Fort Hays State University.
Cathy Estes, EEC coordinator, said Gonazlez is “priceless” to the children and families that Sunflower serves.
“Monica has that special something,” Estes said. “She has an innate talent for early childhood issues. We hear many, many positive comments about Monica from parents. They feel comfortable with her, which is so important for families meeting the special needs of children.”
It is imperative, Estes continued, that teachers and therapists have the experience and credentials to provide the expertise necessary for serving the family of a child under age 3 with special needs.
“There is so much involved in meeting the needs of a child with a developmental delay or disability, starting with knowing how to support the family,” Estes said. “Some children have extensive medical needs and delays that definitely affect the dynamics of the entire family in day-to-day living.”
The home-visitor track at the EEC and the college is the result of a program called ECAAP, which stands for Early Childhood Associate Apprentice Program; KansasWorks is the lead agency. It provides 21 hours of education for free if the student works at a sponsored facility.
As part of the requirements, Gonzalez documented her skills as they relate to the many competency standards.
The previous instructor/coordinator of early childhood at the college developed the CDA curriculum after discovering ECAAP, which pays for books, tuition and fees. The Kansas Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Labor administer ECAAP.
Sunflower’s EEC serves infants and toddlers with delays and disabilities in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. It is part of the state’s tiny-k network.