Early Learning Center provides nurturing, high-quality care to Grafton families
Educator Stephanie Smith engages in an activity with children at the Early Learning Center in Grafton
By Christie Vogt
A sense of peace for the parents, a sense of love and security for the kids — that’s what Maureen Rosenlund hopes to give to the families enrolled at Connect United Early Learning Centers. Rosenlund, the executive director of the centers, oversees the organization’s three sites in Grafton (The Early Learning Center), Ashland (Dream Station) and Bellingham (Wee Folk). She began her career more than 30 years ago as a teacher at Wee Folk where her own children later attended preschool. “When we say that you’re part of a second family at our centers, I can attest to what that truly means,” she says.
That feeling of sincere connection was put to the test during the most challenging months of the pandemic. Rosenlund became emotional describing how Connect United, the nonprofit that owns the centers, continued to pay its employees during the lockdown and how families also supported the sites during a time of great uncertainty. “So many families continued to pay tuition, and Connect United walked out in faith knowing the burden that employees would have without any income,” she says.
Despite serious challenges, the pandemic has made Connect centers stronger, Rosenlund says. “It was an opportunity for us to show families they could trust us,” she explains. “As health regulations emerged, we met and exceeded those guidelines, and those changes have made us better. We really raised the bar by adding staff, improving ratios and finding new ways for children to play and learn.”
Even as pandemic restrictions ended, the centers chose to retain certain changes that have benefited families and employees. “We didn’t just settle back in. We made a comeback,” Rosenlund says. “We learned to be more flexible for families as work schedules have changed, which has meant adjusting our hours, holding slots and showing parents extra compassion as they navigate the anxieties of both parenthood and COVID.”
The three sites offer child care for infants through preschool-age children in addition to after-school care. Connect Church owns the centers, although each site is secular and open to all families. Outside of its early learning centers, Connect Church has campuses in Ashland, Framingham and Bellingham where families can get involved with the ministry through various services and programs.
Rosenlund says that each learning center is committed to providing a nurturing environment where children receive individualized care. “We believe in a child-centered versus teacher-directed approach,” Rosenlund says, “because that’s how children learn best in the early years.” One Grafton parent said her daughter has “grown so much” during her time at the center, and she is grateful to the staff for “being nurturers, educators and cheerleaders.”
As demand remains high for child care, the Connect centers are hiring additional staff. “If educators are looking for stability, we are a great fit,” Rosenlund says, noting that the core team has been with the organization for 15 to 20 years. “Whether you have a master’s degree or you’re just starting out in education, we’re here to coach you and be a team,” she says. “Everyone has the opportunity to contribute, and we encourage seasoned staff to mentor those who are newer to the field.”
In addition to supporting professional goals, Rosenlund says the centers are invested in the personal well-being of employees. “We want them to be the best version of themselves,” she says. One Grafton educator said: “I can’t thank [the administration] enough for allowing me to be part of this team. I have learned so many life skills and so much about myself.”
Speaking about the team’s goals, Rosenlund concludes: “Ultimately, by providing a stable and loving environment, we hope children will leave our centers with strong confidence and self-esteem so they’re ready to venture off to school.”
For more information on the Early Learning Center (2 Elliot Trail, Grafton), contact onsite director Carolyn Vaccaro at 508-839-2442, or visit elcmwm.org.
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