Editor’s Note: The Early Learning Nation Studio recently attended the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s annual conference where we spoke with early learning researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. The full collection of video conversations can be found here.
What does it take to build 24-hour childcare? It starts with a promise. It continues with commitment. And to listen to Rosa Marie, President of Marvelous Minds Academy, there’s only one way it can end: With doors opening to serve families who need it.
Chris Riback: Rosa, welcome to the studio.
Rosa Marie: Thank you for having me.
Chris Riback: What is the Marvelous Mind Academy?
Rosa Marie: Marvelous Mind Academy is an early education platform and we are assisting parents and our young learners, move the needle forward and make great strides toward their goals. So currently we are a childcare service that operates through our local Rochester Museum and Science Center. Our parents meet us there every single day and we are getting ready to launch Rochester’s first 24 hour childcare facility.
Chris Riback: I want to ask you about that because 24 hours is a long time. And to that point, on your website, a couple items caught my attention. One of them was, “Day or night, we’re here for you.”
Rosa Marie: That’s right.
Chris Riback: That’s quite a commitment.
Rosa Marie: It is a commitment.
Chris Riback: Why is that commitment necessary?
Rosa Marie: Because the parents need it. So traditionally the childcare in our area, the centers close 6:30, 7 o’clock. But from my experience as a mom and knowing the community that I’m serving, the work day does not look like that.
Rosa Marie: So parents are going to work from nine to five, but then there are parents who work retail, there are parents who work hospital and they’re working those three to 11 shifts and they don’t have the same high quality options as those who work during the day.
Rosa Marie: So for the reasons of parental mental health, for the reasons of this is just what our community looks like and the needs that needs to be served, for those reasons we are affecting change and moving the needle forward and we want to be able to accommodate families no matter where they are in any stage of life.
Chris Riback: I also couldn’t help but notice the Academy Promise.
Rosa Marie: Yes.
Chris Riback: Would you read it for me?
Rosa Marie: Absolutely.
Chris Riback: It’s right here. I marked it with an arrow.
Rosa Marie: Yes. So, “We commit to respect you and your family. Pursue excellence in everything we do. Maintain a positive mental attitude in all of our dealings. Empower everyone through service, engagement and education. Embrace the occurrence of an unplanned series of fortunate events known as serendipity.” Absolutely.
Chris Riback: What does that promise mean to you?
Rosa Marie: To us, it means trust. It means leaving the door, my favorite part is the serendipity because that’s what led us here. We originally thought that what families needed was more summer camp options. We originally thought that what families needed was more personal care.
Rosa Marie: We originally thought a lot of things, but until we started getting ourselves out into the market, meeting with families, meeting with stakeholders, and what we learned was you actually don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s the serendipity part, right?
Chris Riback: So let’s talk about the 24 hour – Rochester’s first 24 hour childcare facility. How close are you to it?
Rosa Marie: Oh, we’re closer than we were year, put it that much.
Chris Riback: Closer than you were yesterday.
Rosa Marie: Yes. It’s been a learning journey. It really has.
Chris Riback: What are the biggest obstacles? Logistics?
Rosa Marie: Finding a facility that will pass regulations is very, very challenging. When you look at traditional childcare, you don’t need a showering facility, right? We can share space with other facilities. So one of the facilities that we were looking at was a common use facility. But what they didn’t have was the fire safety rating, that was very, very important. And the cost to bring our old buildings up.
Chris Riback: Up to code?
Rosa Marie: Yes, exactly. So those are some of the biggest challenges is meeting those New York state regulations. But hey, we put our hand to the plow and we just keep moving forward.
Chris Riback: So speaking of someone who puts her hands to the plow and pushes forward and helps push a community forward. I had the great privilege of talking with Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren…
Rosa Marie: Yes.
Chris Riback: At a previous event, and one of the things that she told me was, “We needed the community to understand that they had a role to play in making sure that our children were getting the best chance at life by giving them the support that they need early on in life, from zero to third grade.” Do you agree with that?
Rosa Marie: Absolutely. She’s one of our biggest supporters. We love our mayor. Our mayor is phenomenal. And just what she told you then at that event is the same mission that she’s moving forward, even now. She’s helped Marvelous Mind Academy find funding. She’s helped us maybe not directly, but through the initiatives that she ordained or organized and helped move forward. So one of our first round of funding came through a Kiva program, which helps entrepreneurs launch their businesses.
Rosa Marie: The second round of funding we received was from our mapping, through the participatory budgeting process. It was a brand new process that helped us hit the ground running. We would still be this little teeny tiny dot in the map of Rochester, if it wasn’t for these opportunities. She’s doing a great job and we appreciate the work that she’s done.
Chris Riback: It’s surely great to have executive leadership like that.
Rosa Marie: It is.
Chris Riback: And I am skeptical that you, as a little dot, still wouldn’t be making a big impact. The sense I’m getting from you, I think you still would be doing it.
Rosa Marie: Thank you.
Chris Riback: I’m sure that the support from Mayor Warren is terrific.
Rosa Marie: It helps.
Chris Riback: How did you get into this? You sign your emails – I know you know this because I don’t think there’s anything accidental about what you do. You sign your emails with your title, “President and mother of two.”
Rosa Marie: That’s right.
Chris Riback: What drives you to make Marvelous Mind Academy, marvelous.
Rosa Marie: My children. So this is how this started, right? So prior to me having children, my grandmother was my daycare provider, right? So she did daycare in her home for 30 plus years. It wasn’t long I was the weekend babysitter when grandma closed her doors. The parents were asking me, “Rosa, do you want to babysit?” So I just carried that with me and until I had my own child, yeah, sure I understood how to care for children. I understood what they needed, how to keep them safe, things like that.
Rosa Marie: But I didn’t understand the relationship from parent to child until I became a parent. And that provided a well-rounded look at what early childhood education and learning should look like. That has certain expectations for my children above education. It was teaching them confidence. I did that for my firstborn son. When he would fall down, it was get back up. I would give him his daily affirmation. Who are you? I’m an amazing man, powerful beyond measure, able to conquer anything.
Rosa Marie: Three years old, stumbling over his words, but now he’s six and he can recite this like the back of his hand. And what I love about it, he regurgitates it back to me when I’m showing him my authentic self. I’m like, oh, mommy’s so nervous right now. And he’s like, “Remember who you are, mommy? It’s okay to make mistakes.” And so having that reciprocated back to me keeps me going every day. So yes, I do. I sign them and mom of two.
Chris Riback: And mom of two. There are some terrific things – marvelous things – going on in Rochester.
Rosa Marie: Yes.
Chris Riback: Thank you, Rosa.
Rosa Marie: Thank you.
Chris Riback: Thank you for what you do. Thank you for coming by the studio and telling us something.
Rosa Marie: I appreciate the opportunity. Thank you, Chris.