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An Itsy Bitsy Debut

DATE: Thursday, April 28, 2022

HCC to celebrate launch of free, drop-in child watch program May 4

Leslie Pilder is the director of the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch Center.

Holyoke Community College will celebrate the launch of its free Itsy Bitsy Child Watch program on Wed., May 4, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by state Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield), who was instrumental in securing the funds for the pilot project.

The celebration will begin at 10 a.m. in the new Itsy Bitsy Child Watch Center, Room 130, on the first floor of the Marieb Building on the main HCC campus, 303 Homestead Ave.

"This will be a joyful day," said Sheila Gould, director of HCC's Early Childhood Education program. "We will celebrate with finger paint, chalk, bubbles and itsy bitsy scissors to cut the ribbon. The ribbon-cutting signifies a big step for HCC as we culminate years of work to bring this service to our students. It shows that HCC continues to support the whole student and that we aim to directly remove barriers to student success."

The event will also be an opportunity to introduce the inaugural director of the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch Center, Leslie Klein Pilder of Florence, a longtime early childhood educator and the recently retired executive director of Nonotuck Community School in Northampton.

"With Leslie in place as the director, we are ready and eager to welcome the children of our students," said Gould. "The space looks beautiful and welcoming. The policies and procedures Leslie has designed ensure that our students will know their children will be safe, loved, and have a great time while on campus."

Itsy Bitsy Child Watch will officially open for business on May 24 on the first day of Summer Session I classes. 

"I'm very happy to join the HCC community as the first director of the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch Center," said Pilder.

HCC's free, drop-in child-watch program is for student-parents who need safe and affordable supervision for their children while they tend to their college studies. Once the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch opens, HCC will be just the second community college in the state – and the only one in Western Massachusetts – to offer a child watch service for its students. 

"As part of our strategic plan, we've been focused a lot on basic needs, and one of those basic needs is child care," said President Christina Royal, who will also attend the ribbon-cutting.

The pilot phase of the program is being funded through a $100,000 allocation in the 2022 Massachusetts budget secured by Sen. Velis. 

"For parents looking to begin or support their education, finding reliable childcare is always a barrier," Velis said. "This new program will help make a real difference in the lives of so many families, and I am proud I was able to advocate for HCC to receive these funds." 

The Itsy Bitsy Child Watch takes its name from the classic children's book, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, a name that was also borrowed for the Itsy Bitsy Zoomcast, a recorded series focused on early education co-hosted by Gould and Liz Charland-Tait, lead coach for the Strong Start Early Childhood Education Professional Development Center at HCC.

PHOTO by CHRIS YURKO: Longtime early childhood educator Leslie Pilder is the director of HCC's new Itsy Bitsy Child Care Center.