Needy local children get head start at Tick Tock

Photo by Fran Maye Teacher Sara Zuninno watches over students (from left) Angel Cortez, JoAlex Carbajal, Zaire Laboy, and Xoichite Avalos at Tick Tock Early Learning Center.
Photo by Fran Maye Sara Navarrette, (left) and Katie Calderon at work at Tick Tock Early Learning Center.

By FRAN MAYE

fmaye@21st-centurymedia.com

Jackie Maas and her teachers and staff work really hard to make sure every child at Tick Tock Early Learning Center in Avondale gets the kind of personalized care and instruction they need to succeed in life. They often comes in early, stays late, and sometimes even help families of children who need special assistance.

That hard work paid off recently, when Tick Tock earned the highest rating for preschools through the Pennsylvania Keystone STARS Quality Assurance Initiative. Few preschools and even fewer nonprofit preschools have earned a 4 Star rating.

“We earned the highest rating you can receive in the state of Pennsylvania and this is evident in the quality of the child care and preschool program we offer,” said Maas, executive director of Tick Tock Early Learning Center, located off Baltimore Pike.

The award is timely considering Tick Tock is embarking on its 50th anniversary celebration next year. Its roots began with the renovation of the current building and the opening of one class serving seven children in 1964.

The mission at Tick Tock, Maas said, has never changed over the years.

“We still provide affordable quality child care and preschool for the young children of low-income workers in southern Chester County and the surrounding area,” she said. The parents of children, about 100 of them currently, all pay weekly fees, based on a sliding scale.

“Many workers make $8 to $10 an hour,” Maas said. “yet the average cost of child care is Chester County is over $250 a week. Low income workers can’t afford that rate, not to mention all the other costs that go into raising a family.”

Covering the gap between the true cost of child care and what parents pay is grants, local donations and fund-raisers. Tick Tock recently received a $3,000 grant from CCRES, a county organization that provides educational and behavioral health services. Tick Tock is a grant beneficiary from many community organizations, including the United Way of Southern Chester County, The Kennett Run, The Mushroom Festival, the Church of the Advent, the Longwood Rotary Club, the Hutton Family Foundation, several Friends Meetings, area Lion’s Clubs, Applestone Foundation and others. One of the newest grants Tick Tock received was $3,000 from CCRES, a county organization that provides educational and behavioral health services.

“The funding we receive from local grants, fund raisers, and government subsidies, allows us to provide a place where children can learn and thrive at a rate families can afford,” Maas said.

More than anything, Tick Tock students succeed because of a caring staff and a successful English language immersion program that is aligned with the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards.

“Our students become fluent in English while developing the school readiness skills they need to begin kindergarten.” Maas said.

Children who start school as successful learners are more likely to graduate,” Maas said. The graduation rate at Kennett High is 92.6 percent, according to the U.S. Dept. of Census, which is 4.7 percent higher than the national average.

Tick Tock’s curriculum centers around love. Each child receives individualized attention, support and encouragement.“There are lots of wonderful preschools out there,” Maas said. “But I have never seen a program that radiates more love than Tick Tock. We are like an extended family nurturing and cherishing our children.”

Because most of the children come from low-income families, Tick Tock partners with other agencies to provide other services, like on-site dental checkups from Smile mobile dentists, vision screening by the Susquehanna Association of the Blind, flu shots offered through the Chester County Health Department and free winter coats courtesy of Operation Warm.

All school age children have access to free homework assistance and language tutoring.

Tick Tock, Maas said, contributes to the economic health of the county because families pay taxes and support neighborhood businesses.

“Without the services of Tick Tock, a parent or grandparent would have to stay at home and care for a child, which would mean losing an important part of the family income,” Maas said. “Or the child might be placed in unlicensed care which sometimes consists of sitting in front of a TV screen all day long.”

Tick Tock is embarking on a fund-raising campaign in hopes of raising funds for a kitchen renovation, and construction of a curriculum storage area, and ramp exit.

“Financial donations are our lifeblood,” Maas said. “Local grants and gifts are my favorite source of funds because it’s a case of neighbor helping neighbor. Fifty years is a significant milestone for a small non-profit, and we’re hoping to raise enough money in the coming year to build this important final addition.”

To donate to Tick Tock, contact Susan at ticktock@kennett.net or call 610-268-8134.