Sleepy Eye Family Service Center opens doors]

A group collaboration that began in 2001, finally saw the fruits of their labor Monday as the Sleepy Eye Family Service Center held a ribbon cutting and open house. The center is now enrolling children and will run through November.

The collaboration began with the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc., the Minnesota Department of Education and School District #84 to find a way for seasonal and migrant families to stay abreast of their children’s education.

One way of doing that is by offering comprehensive services that include nutritious meals, services to  children with disabilities, developmental screenings and transportation to and from the center. That became a reality Monday when the newly built center opened its doors to the public.
Many experts agree that early childhood education is crucial to long-term success. Migrant and seasonal Head Start and Early Head Start are nationwide programs that offer comprehensive early childhood education for children age birth to kindergarten and their families.
Migrant and Seasonal Head Start and Early Head Start provide services at no cost to families. Medical, dental, immunizations and health education are also available to children and their families.
The Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc.’s Migrant and Seasonal Head Start has been serving the Sleepy Eye area for over 10 years and has served 628 children and their families.
The center began operating in August in a brand new building that was funded entirely through Federal Head Start grants. Previously, the program had been housed in the school district and had only been operational June through August. Now having a separate entity to be able to serve migrant children and families, the center will be open from May through November.
Currently 94 children are enrolled at the center. The service area around Sleepy Eye includes communities such as New Ulm, Essig, St. James, Springfield, Morgan, Fairfax and Sanborn. Hours of operation are from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
According to Cally Ingebritson, Family and Community Service Specialist, early childhood education is designed for kindergarten readiness. That not only means teaching children their ABCs and 123s, but it includes working with families to make sure immunizations are up-to-date, providing developmental screenings and working with parents and children to ensure they are ready to enter kindergarten when that time comes, she added.
Currently there is a bilingual staff of 25 who are employed by the center. Each classroom has a teacher with an Early Childhood Education degree, a paraprofessional and an assistant teacher, with at least one person being bilingual.
“All children in Minnesota are an asset to our community, our schools and our state,” said Elia Bruggeman, Assistant Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education. “We need to look at the data. This center is going to be great for the state.”