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Jasmin Mendoza would be starting from square one in her journey to become an elementary school teacher if it hadn’t been for the experience she gained in high school.
The 2013 graduate of Columbus North was among about 40 students last school year in the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s C4 Columbus Area Career Connection program to teach 4-year-olds in the classroom.
Because of that experience, she starts her college education with 12 credit hours at Ivy Tech Community College.
“It’s very rewarding. “It’s awesome to think you’ve taught these children something,” Mendoza said.
C4 began its early education program in 1983 as a forum to prepare high school students for early education careers in a hands-on setting.
The school system, the Community Education Coalition and Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County started a program called Busy Bees Academy three years ago by raising $1.6 million to make prekindergarten accessible to families with low incomes.
When the public rejected a referendum to pick up future expenses by way of tax dollars, the community partners extended Busy Bees for at least two more years, thanks to another $1 million in donations. That money will provide 100 scholarships in each of the next two school years for full-day schooling and another 20 scholarships for part-day schooling.
The Busy Bees program is available this school year at the Richard L. Johnson Education Center and Mt. Healthy, Rockcreek and CSA-Fodrea elementary schools.
Jenny Wallace, the education and early childhood instructor for C4, said the C4 early education class has always used a preschool lab that adjoins its room to teach 4-year-olds, whose parents enroll them for a modest fee.
She said those children never have had anything to do with Busy Bees or any other prekindergarten programs.
That would change under a plan to capture an anticipated overflow of preschool children because of a lack of room.
C4 would give up its preschool lab for use by an actual teacher and assistant, Wallace said. Whereas C4 students typically have led the class under Wallace’s direction, the C4 students now would serve in a support capacity.
Wallace said her initial reaction was sadness. However, she said she came to realize that what really matters are the children, who will benefit from the education.
Wallace said C4 students will continue to spend the first semester in the classroom and the second semester in internship roles at day care centers and various public and private prekindergarten programs.
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