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Local child care provider dreams big, grows business
WAYNESBORO, Miss. -- Almost 10 years after graduating from college with the plan of opening her own child care center, LaTonya Hill’s dream will come true.
Hill’s new center on Hudson Lane will serve 35 children in toddler and pre-K classrooms.
Building on her experience working at a Head Start center during college, Hill opened her home to provide care for local children after her sons were born. During the four years she operated her home-based business, Hill began working with the Family, Friend and Neighbor Care program offered by the Early Years Network, which is part of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. The program works with family home providers to improve the quality of the services offered to children.
Providers have the option of enrolling in the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), and Hill chose to participate. With guidance to navigate the process from Early Years staff member Norma Hayes, Hill started in the program as a 3-star center. She quickly moved up the quality scale.
Hayes said Hill is one of the best early childhood educators she has ever met.
“I’ve seen her in action with her class on many occasions and was impressed with her organization, compassion, sense of humor, passion for learning and positive attitude,” Hayes said. “She has an amazing understanding of how to relate to children and how to facilitate their cognitive growth and development. I would highly recommend LaTonya to any parent looking for top-quality child care.”
Hill has high standards, both in the quality of care she provides and what she expects from the children in her care.
“When the children go to kindergarten, I want them to not be ready, but beyond ready,” Hill said.
By working with the Early Years Network, Hill had the support and confidence to go through the state licensing process.
“Earning my license was just a lot of paperwork. It was a smooth transition from unlicensed to licensed,” she said.
Hill said she and the children in her care look forward to visits from network staff.
“The Early Years Network staff have been so great. They have kept me current on the latest research and keep me updated when things change,” she said. “I hope the Family, Friend and Neighbor program never ends because there are so many people that need it, especially those without any early education background.”
Hill said she has been interested in moving her business out of her home for a while.
“I feel so blessed to be where I am,” she said. “God had to bring me through these steps to get me here. I wanted this building for years and dreamed of having playground equipment like the one that was already at the center. I’m so happy, I can’t believe it.”
Louise E. Davis, director of the Early Years Network, said Hill is a positive example for other providers.
“Mississippi has many family home providers caring for children every day,” Davis said. “We celebrate LaTonya’s successful transition from family home provider to licensed center owner and director. Her commitment to the QRIS program and licensing prove her dedication to providing quality care to the children and families she serves.”
The Early Years Network is a program housed in the MSU Extension Service and funded by the Mississippi Department of Human Services Division of Early Childhood Care and Development to provide early care and education programs and materials for teachers, directors, children and families to improve the well-being of Mississippi’s children. For more information, visit the Early Years Network Facebook page or http://earlyyearsnetwork.msucares.com.