Utah Valley University President Matthew S. Holland announced Wednesday a major milestone in the campaign to enlarge the Wee Care Center on the Orem campus in the form of a $1 million gift from Barbara Barrington Jones.
“This campaign to expand the Wee Care Center is symbolic of a larger initiative to reach out to women and remove barriers to the benefits of a university education,” President Holland said. “Barbara’s generous gift is a significant step forward in making the expansion a reality.”
Utah lags behind other states in terms of postsecondary participation rates for women, and one of the challenges Utah women face is the need for affordable childcare. A recent statewide study of women and higher education (the Utah Women and Education Project) directed by Susan Madsen, a UVU professor of management, revealed that higher education not only improves women’s financial prospects, but also enhances self-esteem, improves mothering skills, teaches critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and leads to lives of great satisfaction, happiness and health.
Over the years, a number of UVU students in financial need have been able to enroll in courses and complete their university education compliments, in large measure, of the Wee Care Center and its student-friendly services. The proposed expansion of the Wee Care Center would make it possible for more women, in particular, to gain access to the benefits of a university education by increasing the availability of quality childcare options for students.
The center was founded in 2001, however students’ needs quickly outpaced the facility’s maximum service capability, which is 60 children at any given time. The expansion of the Wee Care Center would greatly increase its current capacity. The new facility would also provide critically needed classrooms, activity areas and an updated kitchen.
Furthermore, the proposed expansion would enhance opportunities, in particular, to those in greatest need. Many who take advantage of the Wee Care Center’s services find themselves in less than ideal financial circumstances.
“The Wee Care Center has undoubtedly been a life-saving resource for my family,” said Jessica Steele, a mother of a child with medical challenges who graduated from UVU in April with a bachelor’s degree in public health education. “I honestly don’t know what I would have done without it.”
The expansion campaign launched in March at the inaugural Women’s Leadership Luncheon hosted by UVU first lady Paige Holland; Deborah Bingham, a member of the UVU Board of Trustees and president of the UVU Foundation; Karen Ashton of the Ashton Family Foundation, and many other community-engaged women. Participants discussed and developed ideas to encourage Utah women to complete degrees in higher education.
“When we came to UVU, President Holland and I wanted to do more to help young women have access to the university,” Paige Holland said. “We thought that the Wee Care Center would be the most effective way to go about that.”
Barrington Jones is an author, motivational speaker and CEO of the non-profit Barbara Barrington Jones Family Foundation dedicated to helping women of all ages to realize their full potential and lead more fulfilling and productive lives. She is the mother of two children and grandmother of six grandchildren.
“I know what it’s like to be a single mother, and the fear and pain of thinking, ‘What do I do next?’ At that point, I dedicated my life to helping women,” Barrington Jones said of raising her two children many years ago. “I saw the Wee Care Center and the children there, and said ‘This is where my help will go.'”