GREENSBORO — Young children will soon return to Bennett College’s campus through a new partnership between the historically black school and the nonprofit Guilford Child Development.
At the start of the pandemic, Bennett shuttered its childcare facility, along with the rest of the campus in east Greensboro, while college students learned remotely.
This semester, the campus is reopening to provide a mix of in-person and remote learning for college students. Instead of restarting its own childcare program, however, Bennett has instead partnered with Guilford Child Development to run a center on campus. Guilford Child Development offers free education to children from low-income families and those with special needs.
Gladys Robinson, a Bennett College graduate and state senator representing part of Guilford County, helped connect the school and the nonprofit.
“For children who are low income, who may not have some of the opportunities … this center is critical,” Robinson said. “When one can’t do it, two together can make it successful.”
Laura Colson, Bennett’s vice president of academic affairs, said partnering with Guilford Child Development helps the college connect with the community.
“We want people to know that they are welcome here at Bennett College,” she said. “The individuals and families they serve reflect who we are at Bennett as well.”
Colson said she expects that, like before, Bennett College students will be able to get hands-on learning at the center and possibly employment opportunities as well.
Guilford Child Development runs 13 other early childhood education centers across Guilford County and plans to open at two additional sites in Rockingham County in October.
The Bennett College site will take the place of the Council House center at Smith Homes in Greensboro, which closed this summer due to renovation of the public housing community. Maria Layne-Stevens, Guilford Child Development’s chief executive officer, said she expects to reopen at Smith Homes once renovations are complete.
The Martin Dixon House Head Start/Early Head Start Center will be located inside the Martin Dixon Intergenerational Center on Gorrell Street. That was the location of the previous childcare center.
Guilford Child Development expects to have 43 students at the site. The programs offered at the center will include Head Start and Early Head Start (both funded by the federal government) and N.C. Pre-K (which is mostly funded by the state).
The new center could open as soon as a week from now. Classrooms inside are already set up with tiny chairs and plenty of toys.
“We’ll hear laughter in the hallways and learning in the classrooms,” Layne-Stevens said.
This story was originally published by the Greensboro News & Record on September 23, 2021.