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William Tanner

Corrine Calica looked relieved. Her coworkers were curious because she had a look on her face that they were not used too. She was a little more light-hearted and looked less stressed. After the Child Development Center was almost shut down in 2012, Calica was trying to keep the center afloat. Being a self-sufficient center, they had to rely on the parents of their students and government grants for their sources of funding.

And then it came almost out of the blue. After one visit, a couple offered to help out the students and their families through the CDC by donating $500,000 to the program. But Calica could not tell anyone. Only two other people knew.

Calica just had to smile and wait for the announcement to be made at convocation.

Then on Aug. 14 a standing arose for a former professor. Judith Porta and her husband Fred were on the stage at convocation soaking in the moment. Ted Kaye, the foundation CEO, had just introduced the Portas and announced that they were donating $500,000 through the LPC Foundation for the CDC in the form of the 2Gen Fund. The fund would provide five full-time student parents to enroll their children in an early childhood development program at LPC while they continued to work towards getting their degree.

The Portas are no stranger to the cause of education. They are Stanford graduates. They helped found a Montessori school with four other couples. Judith was a professor of sociology at LPC from the first day it opened until her retirement in 1996.

They have given back to a place that could use it the most. In 2012 the center was slated to be closed on the recommendation of former LPC President Kevin Walthers. On June 12, 2012, in a board meeting Walthers said the decision to shut the center down was a hard one citing that there were 30 children enrolled in the program but only one was full time.

A group of parents including current and former employees, community members and staff of the CDC all came forward in defense of the center during the public comments. In a later meeting the board unanimously voted not to close the center.

At that point the center was still struggling to keep afloat. Calica was applying for every grant possible from any source she could find. It was hard to keep the center afloat when they had to be self-sufficient.
Calica had always worked with low-income families or student parents. But when the center opened in 2011 people said they opened it at the wrong time. She had the minimum amount of staff required, which meant everyone was busy.

The biggest thing was making sure they had students to work with. Calica wanted to serve not only the community around the campus but the students and college staff too. Last year the center was made up of 43% community families and 34% college staff families, leaving the remaining 23% to be student families.

“It was always our hope that students would always be able to have their children in the center,” said Zina Rosen-Simon, an early childhood development professor. “We only had a limited number of students who were able to get financial aid to go to the center. From the onset we were always trying to get money to enable students to come.”

Calica worked on adding in more student parents by sending them to childcare links in Pleasanton. Childcare links, a government program, would pay the tuition of the child for the semester and then they could learn at the CDC while their parents were in school.

And then came the Potras. They asked specifically to see the center. Calica gave them a tour along with Kaye, and that is where they knew where they could make the most impact.

“They could donate to another large institution, but they could see the effects stronger where they can see the effects of the change,” said Calica. “She has been former faculty here and has seen student parents struggle.  She donated and it is a dream come true.”

As a requirement for the 2Gen Fund, parents must be current LPC students with at least one semester already under their belt. They must have good grades and plan on continuing at LPC working towards their degree or transfer. In addition, they will have to go through a selection process with Calica and others.

Calica would love to take as many students as possible, but the candidates will be narrowed down to five student parents per semester. The fund does not cover everything: It only covers $1,000 per month towards the fees for the CDC, but it drastically cuts the costs. The rates for students are tiered as they are for staff of the college and the community.

“I’m really really happy,” said Calica. “Thinking about from when we opened to (being) on the brink of closure to now, I think it’s not just out of the ordinary or extraordinary, it’s a blessing. I’ve never seen in all my years as a director at different school districts, I haven’t been blessed this much. And so for me I want to be a good steward of the funding that is trickling through.”

“It is not federal, it is not state, but it serves the same purpose. And for me it is very fulfilling and I am very grateful.”

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