News Release

Published on Tuesday, September 15, 2009

As many students struggle through current economic challenges, Western Technical College’s Parent Child Center in La Crosse offers optimism to those with young children.

Western recently received a grant for more than $150,000 to help provide on-campus child care services to low-income students.

“We are excited to be a part of this grant,” said Kim Herman, director of the Parent Child Center. “It will allow us to provide services to qualifying Western students on a sliding scale based on financial need.”

The Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) grant is a four-year grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education. It will be divided into about $38,000 per year.

CCAMPIS was created to encourage student parents to finish school, and also to give low-income parents access to child care. According to Karen Gleason, director of Counseling Services, students who are provided with affordable child care are more often able to attend school and graduate.

A unique component of Western’s grant is that it also includes outreach efforts for children with special needs, specifically those with autism. The Parent Child Center staff will receive special training to provide care for children with autism.

“Statistics show that early intervention can lessen the impact of autism,” said Mary Wirkus-Pallaske, instructor for the Disability Support Specialist program and speech-language pathologist/instructor. “Providing support for young children with autism while giving our students the opportunity to explore each child’s unique learning style is mutually beneficial. Not only do the children and their families benefit, but our students will be better prepared to meet the needs in our community.”

When completing the grant application form, Western representatives obtained support from Chileda, Family Resources of La Crosse, and the La Crosse County Human Services Birth to Three Program to develop the plan for providing care to children with autism.

“Including the autism component in our plan really helped us secure the funding,” said Herman. “And, we couldn’t have done it without the help from these community organizations. They are as dedicated to the cause as we are.”

In addition, Western plans to offer a Special-Needs Child Care certificate program and incorporate a special-needs component to the existing Early Childhood Education associate’s degree.

“As important as it is for us to help our Western students who have children with special needs, it is equally important to give future child care providers exposure to children with autism,” said Shar Weibel, grant coordinator. “It’s difficult to find child care for children with special needs because providers may not have the training to help them succeed. Thanks to this grant, we can prepare the next generation of providers and offer training to current providers in the near future.”