For seven months, Gabriel has spent much of his day at GAP Community Child Development Center under the care of preschool instructors. At 13 months of age, he grows more aware of the world around him and is increasingly eager to explore his surroundings and play with peers.
Chris Wallace, Gabriel’s father, said he’s looking forward to seeing what comes out of Gabriel’s time at GAP Community Child Development Center.
The Columbia Heights resident said he anticipates a positive outcome, especially since Gabriel’s older brother Gavin, a former GAP student, easily transitioned to public school.
“I noticed my older son was ahead of his classmates [because] he has a large vocabulary that he learned going to GAP,” Wallace said as he reflected on his family’s nearly decade-long relationship with the early child care center.
“I know my younger son will be alright,” Wallace said. “If anything happens, they’ll be on top of it and will contact me and my wife immediately. The children are happy and taken care of. Putting your child here is like putting them with family.”
Forty years ago, civil rights icon Monica Guyot founded GAP Community Child Development Center along with Aisha Abubakar and Juna Puentes. The letters of GAP represent each of their last names. During its early years, GAP operated in the basement of Woodner Apartments in Northwest before transitioning to its current location on Upshur Street in 2014.
Since its inception, GAP has provided child care for youths between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old, garnering the attention of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
OSSE has designated GAP as one of 30 high-quality recipients of its Pre-K Enhancement and Expansion funding. Child development centers that receive this designation often have been accredited by a national body and maintained licensure.
In addition to small class sizes, GAP provides dual language immersion, STEM and arts integration and outdoor learning, all of which have a foundation in GAP’s mission of diversity and school readiness. Though it offers a Pre-K curriculum equivalent to DC Public Schools, extended morning and evening hours at no extra cost gives working parents some leeway and young people additional time to acquire essential developmental skills.
This academic year, GAP commemorated its 40-year milestone by changing the meaning of GAP to Growing, Advancing, Preparing – what GAP president and CEO Travis Hardmon said speaks to the center’s mission.
In his third year at the helm of GAP, Hardmon has dedicated himself to enhancing the curriculum and ensuring that young people leave GAP reading, writing and counting.
“Part of my vision was to make sure GAP would be sustainable from a programmatic and financial standpoint, especially given the costs associated with running a high-quality, early childhood development center,” he said. “We have a structured curriculum and go well beyond babysitting.”
“Families want a provider at a quality level. Subsidies make child care affordable for lower-income, working class families to be able to have child care. We also have services for teenage mothers, foster care children and children with special needs,” he said.
Another facet of the GAP experience that sets it apart from other daycare facilities lies in its staff members, many of whom have worked at GAP for years. As one of the staff members fitting that profile, Jame’ Foster dedicates much of her time to teaching her two-year-old students through play and showing newer teachers the ropes.
Foster, a daycare instructor for nearly 30 years, has worked at GAP Community Child Development Center since 2005. Throughout her tenure, she has taught dozens of children, many of whom she still sees from time to time when they stop by after school.
Foster also said she maintains contact with families to take note of their children’s progress.
For Foster, the best part of the job involves seeing children reach milestones in their development and engaging them in fun activities as they learn to take life in their own hands. She said GAP Community Child Development Center has allowed her to fulfill her God-given duty.
“These children keep me going. I’m happy when I come in here and walk up the ramp,” said Foster, lead teacher at GAP.
“The children have their own personalities and they’re just special. I love to see them develop. When they come to my class at the age of two, they’re not talking much but when they leave, it’s like talking to a little adult,” she said.