On June 27, 2012, at an outdoor reception of 75 Utah Valley University community members, President Matthew S. Holland and UVU First Lady, Paige Holland, announced a major step forward in an initiative to expand the Wee Care Child Care Center.
As part of a $2.2 million fundraising campaign for the daycare, President Holland introduced author and philanthropist Barbara Barrington Jones, who donated $1 million toward the Wee Care Center expansion.
“She takes people who don’t have hope and gives them hope,” President Holland remarked of Jones. “She takes people that haven’t been listened to and listens to them and leads them to a higher and better life.”
Attendants at the reception included Diana King, Richard Wells, Shay Emerson, and members of the President’s advisory board. 15 children enrolled in the daycare wearing ‘Wee Wolverine’ green t-shirts sat in the front two rows at the event.
Jones, who sat on the grass near the children before the announcement began, said her desire to help was unearthed when she learned about the Wee Care Center at the First Lady’s Women’s Leadership Luncheon held in March.
“Paige just started talking about the Wee Care Center and I had just came from San Francisco where my home is on the market,” said Jones. “All of a sudden the inspiration just drowned me and said, ‘You’re supposed to do this. This is it.”
This inspiration is what motivated her to donate the proceeds from the sale of her San Francisco home and furnishings to the Wee Care Child Care Center expansion.
Recent UVU graduate Jessica Steele and mother of Corbin, 9, and Kaitlyn, 6, also spoke at the reception about her experience as a young mom pursuing a degree. When Steele’s son was diagnosed with Legg Perthes disease and Type 1 diabetes, she had trouble finding a daycare that would attend to her son’s conditions until she found the facilities at UVU.
“The Center offered affordable daycare that was only for the times that I needed to take classes which allowed me to not only go to school, but to be a mom at the same time,” said Steele. “The Wee Care Center welcomed my son’s medical needs with open arms.”
As a huge leap toward his annual initiatives, Jones’ donation allows President Holland to continue towards his efforts in making higher education more accessible for Utah women.
“So many of our students, especially our female students who have children, simply can’t finish their degrees because they’ve got to attend to those high and sacred duties of being a parent and a mother,” said President Holland. “They’ve had to choose, it was either one of the other.”
A recent study on women in higher education, conducted by Susan Madsen, Orin R. Woodbury Professor of Leadership and Ethics, found that Utah has the lowest percentage of female postsecondary students in the country.
About 60 children are provided daycare assistance through the program now. The Wee Care Center expansion is expected to double in capacity.
By Mallory Black
Assistant News Editor