Infant University Graduation Class One, November 20, 2014
“I thought it was for my child, but I learned so much!” “You are a gift from God!” These are just but a few of the statements we heard from the speakers at graduation. Two parents spoke about their experiences at Infant University. It was obvious from the outset that these parents were LAVISHLY SHOWERED with love and attention from Gloria Batts and Wendy Yang, program directors.
I attended the first Infant University graduating class last week at the Huntsville Country Club. It was magical and a long hoped for event for us. Gloria and Wendy artfully organized an elegant brunch with happy centerpieces.
Dr. James Gilbert, a respected African American pediatric surgeon gave the keynote address. Our co-founder and CEO Bobby Bradley was in tears when she heard him speak about not letting circumstances dissuade them from achieving their goals for their children and themselves. He told them that their children were a “gift from God” and and “arrows in the hands of a warrior” quoting Psalm 127. A graduate of Harvard and Emory, Dr. Gilbert spoke with great passion about the promise of the children sitting in that room, and left us more determined than ever to help our Village of Promise children succeed.
The elegant setting was such a fitting tribute of respect for the families that graduated from the 9 week Infant University course. They gave up their Saturdays to attend the classes with their children, were so willing to learn, and to participate in how to prepare their children to be preschool ready and beyond.
Each week Ms. Batts and Ms. Yang would invite speakers from the community to speak on a variety of subjects. Nutrition, language development, discipline and goal setting were just a few of the topics. Patti Simon, Principal at Valley Fellowship Christian Academy spoke about discipline verses punishment. Scott Throneberry, an instructor from Calhoun Community College gave First Aid and CPR training. Vivian Schad led the parents weekly workout program.
The children were cared for by babysitters on site so the parents could have the time and freedom to experience Infant University. This program is modeled on Baby College at Harlem Children’s Zone. Our staff attended their training session in NYC and are well versed in this best practices model.
The moment came to award the certificates of graduation for the first gradating class. I saw children clap when their mommy went to accept the diploma. I saw a great grandmother receive special notice for her attendance and willingness to care for her great grandchildren. I noticed real hope and inspiration for all of us attending, that we had finally made this program a reality. I saw the benefactors of one child in Infant University smile in quiet satisfaction. We had renewed hope that this class of children will go on to preschool, formal education and college and have a happy successful life and career. We know that this program will outlive us because these children will be productive long after we are gone. That is a legacy we will be proud of.