Appleseed Childhood Education is a start-up focused on developing early childhood learning opportunities in Jasper County.
JNF’s Steven Eastridge and Brienne Hooker sat down with Appleseed Childhood Education President Adam Alson and board member Megan Inskeep to talk about the importance of the project for the community.
A Coalition for Quality Childhood Education
After one of Jasper County’s only early childhood education centers closed, multiple families found themselves without high-quality childcare. Some had no other option but to stay home or send their children somewhere wholly unfamiliar. A group – Addy Scheurich, Clint Robinson, Berta Gutwein, Adam, and Megan – formed around the idea of opening another center. Through a partnership created in January 2020 with Right Steps Child Development Center, all day-to-day operations of the new Jasper County venture will be managed by that Lafayette, Ind.-based nonprofit
In the intervening years, the Appleseed board has devoted itself to educating the public about the need for early childhood education. And while many Jasper County residents recognize how caring for our youngest members in this way benefits the broader community, Adam and other board members want to expand awareness around this issue further.
Sharing the Mission and Vision Through Social Media
Appleseed Childhood Education, Inc. uses its social media presence to shape public perception of its mission and takes pride in the content it has developed to do so. The final stage of development for Appleseed is securing space for its center. Still, the organization is working simultaneously to ensure other community resources are also in place for the success of an early childhood education center in Jasper County.
Stephen describes early childhood education as the baseline for workforce development – a ‘two-part process,’ one that happens in the present and the other in the future. The new center will meet parents’ immediate need for safe and qualified childcare. This allows adults to be present in the community and efficient at their jobs.
Beyond this is the opportunity provided by early education to grow young minds so they might become productive individuals later. And high-quality childcare attracts new and young families to the community. Research shows that Jasper County’s population is shrinking and aging.
“To be a community that sustains, we have to have the things that young families need,” Stephen said.
Appleseed Hope to Enrich Jasper County’s Early Learning Options
Appleseed Childhood Education isn’t looking to become a replacement for Jasper County’s in-home childcare providers. Megan shared that she sends her own children to a private center at a woman’s home. The difficulty with home-based daycare is the limitations placed on their capacity. Once all the private childcare providers are out of seats, adults are out of options for where their children can be safely cared for during working hours.
Many in Jasper County have come to understand these issues. Now a building to house this work must be found. The group is currently looking for a place to buy, rent, or build while still actively working to develop a separate professional skill set for the organization that would enable it to create and sustain funding for such a center.
Appleseed Childhood Education is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that operates to support the creation, facilitation, and enhancement of education opportunities for children in and around Jasper County, Indiana, from birth through high school.
“There is real expertise needed to operate these effectively and efficiently,” he said.
Our Health and Growth Begins With Early Childhood Education
Once Appleseed opens its doors, childcare and early development professionals will provide skills, services, and education to young children – a product of much greater value than the price that will be charged. Brienne Hooker, JNF executive director, said populations in rural communities often see fewer benefits than those who live in urban areas and not just in childcare. But “we all pay taxes, we are all equal, and we all deserve fairness,” she said.
“Children in rural areas are being valued as worth less than urban children,” said Brienne. “That is not fair and not right. Early childhood development advocates and enthusiasts across Jasper County are all fighting for our children to have a great place to grow up and learn.”
The founders are working toward creating opportunities for the children of Jasper County, and they hope to see the results soon. And after Appleseed is up and running, they want to extend their model and methods – recreating more in Jasper County and other areas around the state and nationwide. They aim to show that improving childcare and early childhood development is worth the investment.
The 75-seat center is expected to open soon.