News Releases

Media Alert
September 28, 2011

For Immediate Release

For additional information: 

Barbara Kerr, APR
Executive Director of Communications and Marketing

Telephone:  360-992-2921

Email:  bkerr@clark.edu

A Giant Step
for Clark's Youngest Learners

A dedication ceremony will be held on Thursday, Sept. 29

for Phase I of the new Clark College Early Learning Center


VANCOUVER, Wash. – On Sept. 29, Clark College will take The Next Step on behalf of its youngest students at a dedication ceremony for Phase I of Clark’s new Oliva Family Early Learning Center.

The celebration will take place at 4 p.m. The Early Learning Center is located on the north end of the main campus. Clark College is located at 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver.  Driving directions and parking maps are available at www.clark.edu/maps.

LSW Architects, based in Vancouver, designed the 5,000 square foot structure, which was built by JWC Construction.

The project was created through a public-private partnership.  The state of Washington provided $1 million for Phase I of the Early Learning Center on the condition that the college raises matching funds.  A gift from Jan and Steve Oliva of Vancouver allowed the project to move forward.   Steve Oliva served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Hi-School Pharmacy.  Jan Oliva’s many connections to Clark College include serving on the Clark College Foundation Board for 15 years, including two years as chair.  She has also noted that, as a young parent, she benefited from Clark’s early learning program. In 2009, the Olivas were named Philanthropists of the Year by the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington. 

Kitty Welsh of Vancouver donated the funding for the “Little Penguins’ Gardens” in the Early Learning Center.  She made the gift in honor of her late husband, Paul.  A bench in the garden is inscribed with her husband’s name.

Clark College President Robert K. Knight said, “At a time when our state funding continues to decline, it’s clear that donor support is vitally important for today’s students and to help us meet our region’s need for the future.  We are deeply grateful to Jan and Steve Oliva and to Kitty Welsh for their generosity and their commitment to Clark College, our students, and our community.”

Following the dedication and ribbon-cutting, guests will enjoy self-guided tours and refreshments.  Information about the new facility is available at www.clark.edu/cc/elc.


EDITORS’ NOTE:  The following information provides an overview of the Early Learning Center and the early childhood education program facilities at Clark College.

The new Clark College Early Learning Center

Clark College’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Family Life departments are acclaimed regionally and statewide. Employing a three-prong approach, the faculty and instructors from both departments collaborate to provide curriculum and a learning laboratory for early childhood educators, guide and partner with community parents and families, and equip children with what faculty members describe as “a full spectrum of skills and training for life.”


The new facility was created through has plenty of large windows and incorporates interior courtyards. Exterior play spaces create a sense of community, enhance respect for nature, and focus on natural materials. The facility incorporated “green” building materials and construction practices.


Phase I – The indoor area of Phase I contains two flexible classroom spaces, a large multipurpose room, kitchen, and resource center. The multipurpose room includes a double-sided fireplace and stage, a kitchen pass-through counter, and movable furniture to support family gatherings, staff and community provider trainings, and children’s activities. The resource center contains reference materials to nurture parenting skills and child development.

Phase I also includes an outdoor play environment, known as the “Little Penguins’ Gardens.” It features a live willow hut, rock spiral area for storytelling, bubbling creek bed with hand pump, a tiered hill for climbing and playtime, and a simulated camp ground.

Phase II – Phase II is still in the planning stages in terms of design and funding. When completed, Phase II will replace the two remaining buildings in the Children and Family Services complex. Two pods will contain a number of classrooms and faculty offices as well as an atelier art studio and an observation deck for the Clark students who will go on to become early learning professionals.

Clark Early Childhood Education Facilities: Past, Present and Future

Clark’s original Family Life Program (parent cooperative preschools) started immediately after World War II and evolved out of Kaiser Shipyard kindergartens.  

The original building for Clark’s Child and Family Services department was built in the 1970s with state of Washington funds acquired by former Senator Al Bauer.  Bauer participated in the dedication of the Cora Haag Parent Education Center on June 10, 1975. At the time, it was hailed as the only parent participation preschool operated by a college in Washington or Oregon. 

Bauer, a Clark College alumnus, said, “I have always believed that colleges and universities must find ways to support the earliest years of a student’s education.  I’m proud that Clark College is continuing its strong history as a leader in early learning.” 

While Clark’s programming and instruction have been praised statewide, the college facilities have not kept pace with advances in early childhood education. “For more than a decade, it has been our dream to have a new Early Learning Center facility,” said Laurie Cornelius, Clark College director of children and family services. “It is exciting to know that our new learning environment will fully support our program and our aspirations for our students.”

Interim Vice President of Instruction Dr. Tim Cook said, “The Child and Family Studies Program is a lab school where Clark students have the opportunity to put theory into practice by working with children and families. This is a unique approach which is considered a best practice throughout the U.S. In order to meet the needs of today’s students and prepare them for the work they will do after graduating, it will be important to successfully complete both phases of this exciting, learning-focused project.”