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NIAGARA FALLS – A multi-faceted program of education for teenage parents and care for their infant children will open soon in an area where it may be able to do the most good – next door to Niagara Falls High School.

Little Wonders Early Childhood Development Center – a nonprofit ministry of St. James United Methodist Church, but open to everyone without regard to their religious affiliation – is expected to open sometime next month in a ground-floor wing of the church at 4661 Porter Road, just east of the city high school.

Rose Lynch, a lifelong Niagara Falls resident, former teacher and operator of a private day care center, is administrator of the new center. She said Little Wonders will have a staff of about a dozen teachers and administrators, all of whom are certified child care providers.

“This child care center is intended for the entire Niagara Falls community but has a focus on providing child care services for teen parents at the high school,” Lynch said. “We will be caring for children ranging in ages from six weeks through 12 years old.”

Lynch said the city school district has its own Center for Young Parents, with about 66 enrollees, but Little Wonders differs in that it also will take care of the young parents’ children with a wide variety of health, nutrition and child development programs.

She said the city school district is doing its part by building a sidewalk from the high school to the Little Wonders center, so school-age parents can easily walk next door to be with their children when necessary.

“This new child care program is much more than just daily baby-sitting,” Lynch said. “We will provide tutoring and positive role models for parents and children of all ages. Some high school seniors will perform a public service by sharing their experiences with younger pregnant or parenting teenagers, including fathers as well as expectant mothers.”

Lynch said Little Wonders hopes to provide bus or van transportation to and from most local schools to make it easy for young parents to leave their children at the new center while the parents continue on to their regular schools. Children may be dropped off beginning at 6:30 a.m. and picked up by 5:30 p.m. on weekdays whenever school is in session.

The center can accommodate about 30 children age 4 or younger, and about 70 in the 5- to 12-year-old range. The administrator said there are several vacancies for open enrollment in both age groups. A meeting for interested parents will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the St. James Fellowship Hall.

Grants, private donations and tuitions that can range up to $190 a week for some teenage parents will support the program. The Niagara County Social Services Department and other agencies can supplement or subsidize some of the tuition payments.

The program for school-age children will include homework support and tutoring, daily fitness activities, health and nutrition programs, development of healthy peer relationships, time for relaxation, breakfast in the morning and healthy snacks in the afternoon.

Lynch, who is eagerly looking forward to the day when the center will open, said a firm date will be set after some final loose ends are tied up. She holds a master’s degree in early childhood education from Niagara University, is a certified teacher and has a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

The Little Wonders mission statement says it “will offer affordable, high quality child care services in a safe, kind and nurturing environment. Close personal attention will be given to each child, allowing them to grow and develop at their own pace.

“Our focus is to provide a stimulating early care and educational program which promotes each child’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. Our goal is to include children in every aspect of learning to essentially become lifelong learners.”

For more information on Little Wonders Early Childhood Development Center, call 297-6421 or visit stjamesniagara.org.

Do you have an idea for religion news in Niagara or Orleans counties? Write to Richard E. Baldwin, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240 or email him at rbaldwin@buffnews.com.