When San Antonio Center Director Keith Standish looked at his center’s enrollment numbers this spring and thought about how many more children in his community he could educate and care for, he saw a gap. His center wasn’t serving nearly as many children as it could, and the children he did have in his building weren’t enrolling all of the program supplements they could. There was room for improvement.
One thing Keith wanted to do was to increase enrollment in his center’s Learning Adventures classes. It wasn’t until he had a heart-to-heart with Norma Mendez, his district manager, this spring that he realized the only impediment to his success was himself.
“My enrollment was constantly up and down,” he said. “I was in and out of classrooms and counted in ratios more than I should have.”
Keith’s Learning Adventures program wasn’t growing and while he knew he wasn’t the only CD in his district who was struggling with balancing labor hours and increasing enrollment, he often felt like it. His “aha moment” came during a meeting when Norma encouraged Keith to “hire up” so he could truly run his center. She reminded him to hire not for his center’s current needs, but for the true potential his center could achieve.
Shortly after their conversation Keith hired eight new teachers and after each new hire completed the First 100 Days program, they fully understood their role as a coach. Not too long after that Keith’s center reached 100% occupancy, giving Keith the confidence he needed to approach his Learning Adventures program in a new way.
During spring break each of Keith’s Learning Adventures teachers demonstrated activities from the extended summer learning program. Instead of showcasing the program for parents, they presented the demonstrations to school-age children, building excitement for the summer program, an excitement children carried home to their parents.
When parents inquired about enrolling their children in Learning Adventures Keith offered them something entirely new – he combined the Learning Adventures tuition with the regular summer tuition. Now 102 students are enrolled in the eight week summer Learning Adventures cooking program, something Keith would’ve found impossible to believe in the spring.
“I really convinced myself that this wouldn’t work at my center,” he said. “Wow, was I wrong. You have to think differently. You need to step out of your day-to-day routine. The number one reason why I feel we have the results we do is changing the culture and how my team values Learning Adventures.”
The enrollment increase in what is normally a supplemental program is even more remarkable considering many parents at Keith’s center receive state tuition subsidies. Keith now sees how that attitude – “parents can’t afford it” – held his team back from promoting Learning Adventures instead of offering families access to a program that supplements and enhances their child’s experience in his center.
“Don’t let your families’ financial background stop you and your team from denying children you serve in your community the opportunities our Learning Adventures programs have to offer,” he said.