Birmingham’s Harris Early Learning Center donated to Auburn University


AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The Birmingham Urban
Revitalization Partnership recently gifted the Harris Early Learning
Center in Birmingham to Auburn University.

The gift, valued at $6.4 million, includes the building and contents,
as well as an endowment for general maintenance. The Alabama Power
Foundation will also continue its longtime support of the center.

“Auburn University now has a physical presence in downtown Birmingham
from which our Extension and outreach mission can more effectively
operate in one of the main population centers of the state,” said Joe
Pittman, head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies
in Auburn's College of Human Sciences.

“It will invigorate our research program
that has been ongoing in the center since its inception. It will give
more undergraduate and graduate interns from a variety of disciplines
opportunities to observe or work with young children in a
state-of-the-art facility, or, depending on the discipline of the
participating student, it could provide ideas for how to design, operate
or otherwise improve such facilities for the future.”

Business and civic leaders who make up the partnership joined forces
with Human Development and Family Studies faculty in 1994 to provide
parents working in the downtown Birmingham area with a high-quality
child care facility. Auburn faculty helped design the center, as well as
create a curriculum to educate and foster developing social and
practical skills. The center's two directors are Ph.D.-level faculty
from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Located in Birmingham's Civil Rights District, the Harris Early
Learning Center opened Aug. 25, 1995, with 65 children. In two years, it
was serving 200, ranging in age from six weeks to five years. The
center continues to attract approximately 200 children each year, some
of whom remain a part of the enrollment until they leave for
kindergarten. It is estimated that more than 2,500 youngsters have been
served by the center so far.

Besides serving as a state-of-the-art child care center, it offers
on-site apartments for students and faculty who need accommodations for
overnight or long-term stays while conducting research or completing
internships. It also offers parenting workshops and training for
teachers and directors of other Birmingham metro centers.

As a model program for early childhood development and education, the
center has welcomed professionals from across the country and around
the world to assess the viability of replication in their own
communities. It also receives a number of college students from
throughout Alabama each year for internships.

The Harris Early Learning Center is named for Elmer and Glenda
Harris, an Auburn University couple and early childhood education
advocates who led the effort to obtain corporate sponsorship to build
the center.

(SOURCE: AUBURN UNIVERSITY / Written by Amy Weaver.)

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