The Sakonnet Early Learning Center (SELC), founded in 1984 by Deborah Murphy Raposa, is a colorful five-classroom facility surrounded by an expanse of outdoor play space. The SELC has received national accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children and is licensed by the Rhode Island Department of Children Youth and Families; but Deborah prides herself most on an achievement that can’t be framed and hung on a wall: “We get a tremendous amount of new students from our reputation in the community and through word of mouth, which makes me feel great. We’re on our second generation of learners right now and teaching the children of former students truly makes me proud.”
The SELC follows the Rhode Island Early Learning Standards and offers full and half day programs (18 months-5 years) as well as before and afterschool care and summer camp (through age 12). Deborah places great emphasis on daily contact between parents and staff and offers myriad fun activities that encourage family engagement like open houses, parent breakfasts, summer carnival and grandparent tea.
As a graduate of Roger Williams University with majors in education and child psychology, Deborah understands the importance of continuing education. She just finished a ten-week course and constantly attends conferences both locally and nationally, saying, “education is so important; you can’t just teach it – you also have to experience it.”
Each of the 11 full-time staff members at SELC is CPR and first aid certified, and working with Bright Stars of RI to maintain the most current practices. Deborah points out, “Our staff loves children. You can have a PhD in education, but if you do not have that natural love and nurturing personality, it doesn’t matter. You can’t teach the patience, energy and creativity it takes to teach children.”
There is an abundance of natural light in each classroom as well as hands on learning materials like computers in all classrooms, designated math and science areas, reading areas, dramatic play space and more. Since the property boasts so much outdoor space, students get the opportunity to explore the world around them. The summer camp includes nature walks, planting and tending to a garden, picnic lunch and weekly water play with an inflatable slide. Campers also attend field trips to places like the zoo, library, beach, movies, bowling, mini golf and Feinstein Theatre.
Deborah has fond memories of the center; both of her children, Kristina and Christopher, graduated from SELC and went on to graduate from Babson and Endicott, respectively. The end of April marks the annual National Week of the Child and SELC will celebrate with a week of festivities including daily entertainers, parent breakfasts, a petting zoo, and special lunches for the students.