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St. Charles Children's Learning Center at CSM Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Michele and Barry Hamilton in a classroom with their two daughters

The Hamiltons chose the St. Charles Children's Learning Center at the College of Southern Maryland as their day care provider when their oldest daughter was an infant and the center opened. Through the years they have continued to keep their two daughters at the center, from infant care through today with both children now enrolled in after-school care. From left are Page, Michele, Barry and Claire Hamilton.

Family Values Center for Its Nurturing of Their Daughters since Infancy

Finding the right caretaker for a newborn child can be an anxious decision for new parents, but once identified, that caretaker can become a valuable part of the family for years to come. Such is the case for Barry and Michele Hamilton of Waldorf when they set out to choose day care for their infant daughter Claire once Michele Hamilton returned to her job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville.

"It's always hard when you are going to leave your first child," said Michele Hamilton. "I remember when Claire was 10 weeks old and I was in tears leaving the center, but you have to have that trust with someone to make that break."

For the Hamiltons, that someone was the St. Charles Children's Learning Center (CLC) at the College of Southern Maryland. Just about the same time as Claire was born, the CLC opened, and when the Hamiltons chose the CLC as their day care provider, so began a relationship that has spanned 10 years and two daughters, from infant care through today with both children now enrolled in after-school care.

 "When we first had Claire we had already tried to reach out to some other day care centers and it was actually really hard to find a center who took infants in the area. This was one of the ones that was very convenient for us for the location and one of the few who had openings at the time," Michele Hamilton said. "I know there's always some anxiety when you're going to leave your child, especially your first child, with people you don't know, but the Children's Learning Center had friendly and competent staff here and we felt comfortable leaving our kids." Michele Hamilton said it also helped that her husband is an employee at the college and so would be nearby should a daughter need to be picked up due to illness or appointments.

What stands out for the Hamiltons is the high quality of care and education that both of their daughters have received while enrolled at the CLC. "The biggest praise we received when Claire and then Page started kindergarten at their current school was how both of them were above and beyond in being prepared for school," said Barry Hamilton.

"We were really happy to hear that the CLC was doing a really good job getting the kids up to the level they were supposed to be and above that," Michele Hamilton said, crediting the learning and nurturing they received while at CLC.

For the Hamiltons, their involvement at the CLC has become somewhat of a family affair. Both of their parents have enjoyed the experiences that granddaughters Claire and Page have had at the CLC over the years, from parades to pageants to graduation. "They do a lot of activities to involve the whole family, with a family activity every month. We've enjoyed Father's Day doughnuts, Mother's Day teas and trike-a-thons," Michele Hamilton said.

Now 10-year-old Claire Hamilton and 7-year-old Page Hamilton arrive at the CLC for after-school care, dropped off as part of the public school bus route. Claire Hamilton's favorite activities at the CLC include making crafts, eating popsicles and getting to read to the younger children at the center. After hanging up her jacket and finishing her homework, Page Hamilton enjoys playing with her friend Annabelle and sister Claire before their father retrieves them for the day.

"It was really a no-brainer," Michele Hamilton said about keeping the girls at the CLC rather than switching to another aftercare program once they began kindergarten. "It just wasn't an option we considered."

The St. Charles Children's Learning Center was established to provide CSM students, faculty and staff, as well as community members, quality, child-centered care. The center enhances the lives of children, their families and the greater Southern Maryland community. The center, which opened in 2006 with 20 students ages 8 weeks to 4 years old, now offers care for more than a hundred students from ages 8 weeks to 12 years old.

"Our center would not be here without the more than 100 generous supporters, especially the St. Charles Companies, who helped raise the money through the CSM Foundation to build our center at CSM," said CSM Vice President of Advancement Michelle Goodwin.

The CLC has earned a Maryland EXCELS Level 3 rating by the Maryland State Department of Education and is in the accreditation process. Located on CSM's La Plata Campus, the center offers 10,000 square feet of learning space including nine child-centered classrooms, a gymnasium and a prep kitchen. In addition, the center has its own private landscaped playground and access to the campus grounds. For information on the St. Charles Children's Learning Center, visit clc.csmd.edu.  

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