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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Summer course grows out of need for care givers

Education faculty members at New Mexico State University, who identified a critical need for trained child-care and preschool professionals, have developed a certificate course in Spanish to help fill the gap.

The New Mexico Entry Level Certificate Course for Early Care and Education Personnel is an outgrowth of a needs assessment conducted in southern New Mexico and the El Paso, Texas, area. The course will be offered this summer by the NMSU College of Education curriculum and instruction department.

Funded through a Kellogg Foundation grant, the course is part of a statewide effort to improve child-care and preschool services to children up to 8 years old, said Nancy Baptiste, director of the NMSU Preschool. She also is the Kellogg project's co-principal investigator.

During the summer, Baptiste and colleagues plan to do more research. They will gather information about the course participants through interviews, field notes, case studies and other methods. Their research will yield information about barriers that make it difficult for people to take advantage of higher education. Baptiste expects that some of the barriers will be language differences and lack of money and time. The study will help NMSU and other colleges and universities develop new ways to reach out to potential education students, she said.

Ultimately, children will reap the benefit of more people become trained care givers, Baptiste said. New Mexico and the nation have a shortage of qualified people to care for young children, she noted. By the year 2010 the United States will need 600,000 early childhood educators. With welfare reform and increases in the number of dual-career families and single- parent families, the need in New Mexico is constantly growing, she said.

"I don't think people are aware of this problem," Baptiste said. "In rural areas of New Mexico, we have a real shortage of both child-care services and trained professionals."

NMSU is working in partnership with other New Mexico universities and colleges, including the tribal colleges, to provide training. NMSU's education college received a $104,000, three-year grant for the project and is halfway through the grant period. The participation of local residents is an important part of the partnership, according to Baptiste.

The 45-hour course, developed by Baptiste and her colleagues, has been offered in English throughout the state for two years. It gives students practical experience working with children. Those who complete the course receive a certificate from the New Mexico Office of Child Development.

It makes sense to also offer this class in Spanish because we have so many monolingual Spanish-speaking child-care providers, particularly those who provide home care," Baptiste said.

Students who complete the course may also work for community agencies and family support programs, such as Head Start, which serve children and their families, she said.

The Spanish version of the course will be taught by NMSU's Loui Reyes and by Christina Gonzalez of El Paso Community College. It will not be offered on the NMSU campus but, for the convenience of students, at community sites in southern New Mexico and west Texas. Classes will begin in late July.

Through an articulation agreement, NMSU will accept certain early childhood education credits earned at El Paso community college, Baptiste said.

"We want to be responsive to local needs," Baptiste said. "We've found that people of color, low-income people and people with linguistic differences can have trouble accessing professional training and higher education. We are trying to reach out to people who previously haven't thought of attending college."

The program provides mentors, financial aid information and career counseling, Baptiste said. Mentors encourage students to obtain their associate's, bachelor's and advanced degrees in education so they can move up in their careers.

For more information about the early childhood program, persons can call (505) 646-1165 or 646-2632.
Rita Popp
May 14, 1999