“We decided to go back to school because of the kids. I didn’t like sending them every morning when they know I don’t have my high school diploma. They could say, ‘You don’t have your diploma, so why do I have to go?’ We have goals, and we wanted to set a good example,” said Sykes.
Sampson left high school when she became pregnant with her first child. Sykes says that it was a lack of concentration and determination that led him to drop out. Now, they’re both enrolled at The Excel Center on Franklin Road working towards graduation with the aim to then pursue college.
One of the ways The Excel Center eliminates the barriers preventing students from returning to school is with child care drop-in centers at each of its locations. The drop-in centers provide a safe, learning environment for kids – ages 6 months to 12 years – while parents attend class. Many families take advantage of the free service.
Sampson and Sykes’ youngest child, also named Suton, is 2 years old, and without an option for free child care, they would not have returned to school at this time. Suton attends the drop-in center four days a week. Sampson and Sykes also take advantage of the center for their older children, on occasion.
“One of the benefits I hear from many students is that their child is in the same building as they are,” said Nicole Collins-
The goals of the drop-in center are simple – helping children learn and develop.
“We are not about babysitting,” said Collins-
The drop-in center curriculum theme changes every two weeks. Themes include community helpers, zoo animals, transportation and more. Each theme has an associated color, shape, number and letter that the children focus on learning. Days of the week, months, counting, colors and shapes are also introduced.
“Suton loves it here. He can’t wait to go to school,” said Sampson. “He loves playing with the other children, making crafts and learning songs. He wants to keep up with his brothers and parents. He knows we are all going to school, so he wants to go to school, too.”