Learning By Playing: Children's Center Gets Future Techies Started Early

SOCORRO, N.M. November 15, 2010 -- After a four-year fundraising campaign, New Mexico Tech broke ground for the new Macey Family Children’s Center.

A dozen pre-school children helped dig the first shovefuls of dirt on Wednesday, October 27, to mark the beginning of the construction project.

“I’m very pleased and relieved and satisfied that we are finally at this special day,” Director of Auxiliary Services Louise Chamberlin said. “Our fund-raising efforts were slow and steady, but we finally reached this point.”

The new 4,000 square-foot center will have specific features that the old facility lacked. The bathrooms will open to the children’s area as well as the outdoor playground. We will also have conference rooms for consulting with parents in private. The outdoor play areas will also be more secure.

The new facility has several features that will allow the center to meet the highest level of national accreditation. The facility is currently a four-star center, the new building will permit Tech to achieve a five-star rating, the highest national rating.

Bill Macey graduated from New Mexico School of Mines in 1942. He has been New Mexico Tech’s staunchest supporter over the years. He donated more than $1 million for the construction of the Macey Center in the 1980s. Macey also supports Tech’s highest academic award, the Macey Scholarship, which is a highly-competitive $5,000 award given to four Tech students each year.

Macey said the children’s center construction project started in April of 2006 at the President's Club Dinner. He had made a modest donation to the Center, when Chamberlin and Cheryl Macey encouraged him to tour the facility to see how his donation would be used.

“I toured the existing facility and realized right then the need for a new center for our children,” he said.

The university formed the Children Center Building Committee. Dr. Ricardo Maestas, who was the Vice President of Student and University Relations at the time, spearheaded the effort to raise funds.

Macey pledged to match all other donations and also provided significant start-up funding for the project. Macey thanked local residents, New Mexico Tech faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumni who donated to the fund.

The true catalyst in this project – and the true champion for the children – is Ann Sullivan, the director of the children's center,” Macey said. “Her assistance was unsurpassed. Ann is the Energizer Bunny! She put her stamp of approval on every feature, fixture and flusher.”

The Children’s Center first opened its doors in 1971 on a shoestring budget thanks to a core group of New Mexico Tech faculty parents. The first center was neither accredited nor licensed, but it served the needs of faculty parents.

In the late 1970s, the facility moved to a duplex on Tech hill. In the early 1980s, the Children’s Center moved again, this time to its current location, which had been a residence.

Since then, the building has been renovated and added on to, so as to better serve the needs of children and their parents. With this new building, Tech will finally have a Children’s Center that is built specifically for this need.

Many, many people contributed to this fund. We raised more than $1.5 million to design and construct this fabulous facility, which will the first stop on campus for the next generation of New Mexico Tech students.

Many community members have donated to the fund, including former students, former parents, faculty members and local residents. To them, we owe all of our gratitude.

“We also owe a sincere thanks to New Mexico Tech’s biggest supporter, Bill Macey and his wife, Cheryl Macey,” Chamberlin said. “They pledged to match all other donations. Without that sort of generosity, we wouldn’t be here today with our golden shovels.”

“This is an especially exciting for me,” Sullivan said. “This will only be surpassed in excitement when we move into our new home.”

She said Tech’s child care center is atypical because she operates as an educational play area for youngsters.

“We encourage our pupils to interact and learn by playing,” she said. “Children leave our Center and are fully prepared for kindergarten – not because we give them classroom-style learning – but because we let them play.

All of the children’s activities are interactive. The Center has no DVD players, no TVs and no computers. The playground doesn’t have traditional equipment – but is full of “loose parts.” Children play with blocks, containers, pots, pans, crates and other movable parts. They work cooperatively and build things.

“New Mexico Tech prides itself on its hands-on practical education,” she said. “At the Children’s Center, we pride ourselves on the same thing.”