Center celebrates 30 years of service

Student-parents started and still run the University-area child-care center.

Liala Helal

If it wasn’t for Como Community Child Care, University Medical School student Emily Birkholz said, she wouldn’t be able to go to school.

Her two children, Dylan Birkholz and Haley Birkholz, laughed as they put various types of fruit on a stick during the center’s open house Wednesday. The event celebrated the center’s 30 years of service to the University community.

Como Community Child Care, located next to the University’s Como Student Community Cooperative, was started, and is still run by, student-parents. Some serve on the board of directors, which hires and reviews the staff members, makes major financial decisions and creates policies.

Children, parents and staff members gathered to do art projects, eat and play during the event. Many smiles and giggles were produced throughout the night as people interacted with one another.

One of the board members, Roberto Olayo, a University graduate student who has one child enrolled in the program, said he enjoys being involved in an organization that works with his children.

“It’s a very fulfilling experience,” he said.

Olayo said he lives in the community and the center is conveniently located. He said he likes the small day-care atmosphere.

“We know each other here, and we’re all going through most of the same things, so it’s nice to be with people who are in your same situation,” he said. “It’s been great for us in many ways.”

Birkholz said she goes to the Medical School while her husband attends the University of St. Thomas School of Law. She said she likes the staff and how affordable and convenient the day care is. She said she is very pleased with the program.

“It’s a fun place,” she said. “Haley is learning Spanish here too, and it’s fun to have her come home and be able to speak a little bit of both.”

Another University of Minnesota student-parent, Christine Paulicek, said she really appreciates the 25 percent discount the center gives University students.

Parents and staff members said they love the center’s cultural diversity.

Hana Kim, whose husband attends the University of Minnesota and has one preschool-aged child attending the day care, came from South Korea two years ago. She said enrolling her daughter in a day care that has children from different countries was important to her.

“This day care has children from all over the world, which makes it easier for my daughter to adjust; it’s good for her to meet friends,” she said.