YWCA Metro St. Louis to bring critical new asset to the 39 North innovation district

ST. LOUIS, MO, March 24, 2022 – The lack of quality affordable childcare is a key contributing factor to the post pandemic workforce shortage. YWCA Metro St. Louis announced it is spearheading the effort to open an early childhood education center in 39 North in space owned by the Miriam School and Learning Center at 1138 N. Warson Rd, Olivette, MO 63132. The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and city of Olivette have been collaborating with YWCA to bring this much needed new asset to the 600-acre innovation district. 

The center will serve both the innovation district’s workforce and the community. The scheduled opening is Fall 2023 and will initially serve 70 children with plans to expand to serve 170 children at full capacity.

“It’s so appropriate we are making this announcement during Women’s History Month,” said Dr. Cheryl Watkins, MBA, YWCA president and CEO. “Access to childcare is the single most limiting factor for women in the workforce. If parents can’t find quality care for their children, they can’t work. Creating a space for children to thrive creates a space for families to thrive.”  

From left to right: Janet Wilding, Bill Florent, Dr. Cheryl Watkins, Mayor Maxine Weil, and Stephanie Regagnon

YWCA and Early Childhood Education
Harnessing its expertise in early childhood education as the largest provider of Head Start and Early Head Start services in the region, YWCA’s new facility will be more than a drop-off daycare, the center will feature a STEAM-based curriculum designed to foster a lifelong love of learning. The partnership with the Danforth Center and the agtech community in 39 North will enrich the experience by integrating plant life science and innovation into the curriculum to expand the children’s knowledge.

Underscoring its strength in early childhood learning, YWCA’s Stacy Johnson, Chief Program Officer and Director, YWCA Head Start/Early Head Start, was recently recognized as Head Start Administrator of the Year by the state of Missouri. YWCA Metro St. Louis also was invited to become a nationally accredited Program of Excellence by the National Head Start Association (NHSA), an opportunity only accorded to select organizations. 

Partner Support
“Innovation districts are created to bring resources and connectivity to companies and entrepreneurs,” said Stephanie Regagnon, executive director of Innovation Partnerships at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. “39 North provides world-class infrastructure, highly skilled talent and access to tools companies need to launch and grow their business. We know that quality, affordable childcare is essential for a thriving workforce and will be a vital new amenity for company recruitment to our innovation community. We are thrilled that the YWCA, a nationally recognized leader in early childhood education, is filling that gap.” 

“The opportunity for children to be exposed to the agtech community at an early age is really exciting,” said Janet Wilding, vice president of major projects, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. “We are thrilled YWCA is bringing this critical amenity to 39 North.” 

Miriam School and Learning Center has been looking for a quality tenant to utilize the unused space in our building,” said Bill Florent, Interim Executive Director at Miriam. “As an educational organization, we know the importance of providing affordable early childhood education for the community and are excited to be working on this project.”

Olivette’s Mayor Sidney Clark adds, “The city of Olivette is proud to partner with YWCA Metro St. Louis to bring an early childcare center to our community. All children deserve equitable learning experiences, and we look forward to being a part of transformative change for children and their families.”

Going Forward
YWCA hopes to repeat this model at other locations around the community, and it hopes that the partnership is noted and replicated around the world. “It took dedicated community leaders to come together to make this happen, and we hope others are inspired to follow our example for the benefit of children and their families,” added Dr. Watkins. 

About YWCA
YWCA Metro St. Louis is the region’s leading advocate for the safety, security and stability of women and children, serving approximately 8,000 women, girls and families annually. The mission of YWCA is eliminating racism and empowering women. YWCA offers housing for homeless women; crisis intervention and rapid re-housing for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence; economic empowerment for all of our clients; Head Start and Early Head Start; pregnant women services; teen leadership; and racial justice programs.

About the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education, and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Visit www.danforthcenter.org, and follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter.

About St. Louis Economic Development Partnership
The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership provides economic development services for the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County. The Partnership works in collaboration with the St. Louis Development Corporation, Greater St. Louis Inc., AllianceSTL, the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the Missouri Partnership and other economic development partners to attract, retain and grow companies coming to or expanding in the St. Louis region.

About Miriam School and Learning Center
Miriam School and Learning Center empowers unique learners by building confidence and a foundation for success. Miriam School serves grades pre-K through 12 who have not found success in a traditional school, providing an individualized learning environment with small class sizes, personalized curriculum, integrated speech/language and occupational therapies, and a welcoming culture. Miriam Learning Center provides outreach services to partner schools and districts throughout the St. Louis region, as well as private diagnostic, counseling, tutoring and therapy services for students who choose to stay in their current school. Miriam offers tuition assistance funded by generous contributors, as well as by our resale shop, Miriam Switching Post. 

About the City of Olivette
“In The Center of It All,” the city of Olivette is a suburban community located in central St. Louis County, Missouri. Olivette celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2020 and is a Home Rule Charter city with a Council-Manager form of government. Olivette is full of charm and local pride —home to a booming economy and beautiful surroundings, Olivette is a full service city and provides a wide array of services, including police and fire protection, parks and recreation, planning and community development, and public works.