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New $16M Learning Center to open in Jamaica Plain

Banner Staff | 9/19/2013, 6 a.m.

The new $16 million Learning Center under construction in the Bromley-Heath public housing development in Jamaica Plain has attained great success in diversity hiring for the project. The contractor, CWC Builders, reports that it has hired an impressive local population on the construction project: 75 percent are minorities, 16 percent are women, 61 percent are Boston residents and 71 percent are Section Three residents. These numbers far exceed the goals for the construction project: 50 percent minority employment, 50 percent Boston residents and 10 percent women.

Associated Early Care and Education is a nonprofit institution that provides high-quality early learning and nurturing for over 1,500 low-income children in Greater Boston. “We were committed to employing an unusually high number of minorities, women, Boston residents and low-income residents in constructing the building,” says Associated CEO, Wayne Ysaguirre.

Project Manager Jonathan Lavash explains, “Most owners are not as committed to doing this. And it’s through the commitment of Associated that it percolates into all the contracts, all the ways we do business in everything. We don’t want to just hit 50 percent, we want to blow it out of the water — and we are.”

Lavash also attributes hiring successes to foresight and on-the-ground effort on the part of the CWC Builders’ Community Compliance and Outreach coordinator, Cynthia Murchison.

“Pre-planning is the hallmark of a successful project, and Cynthia is pre-planning with the subcontractors to make sure that there are no excuses, but more so to make sure that the community is benefitting from the project,” Lavash continues.

About 90 percent of the families served by Associated are racial minorities according to Ysaguirre. “It makes sense,” he asserts, “that people from the community should participate in the construction of our new facility.” In addition to managing several daycare centers, Associated serves about 140 home care providers with training and expert guidance on child care.

The innovative Learning Center in Bromley-Heath will be the first-of-its-kind center to provide high-quality early education for young children as well as after-school, health-and-wellness and adult-education programming for more than 1,000 low-income families. “This facility will enable Associated to implement its strategy of enrolling families and not just children,” says Ysaguirre. “Parents are their children’s first educators, they are their children’s advocates, and they are the breadwinners. The development of parents’ skills in any of these areas benefits the children.”

Associated is so committed to that philosophy that they will enroll families in their program, not just children. Every teacher in the program must have at least a bachelor’s degree in child development.

The Learning Center is funded by a wide variety of sources, both private and public, including a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The center is leased to Associated for $1 per year by the Boston Housing Authority. Studio MLA Architects is designing the Learning Center.

The Learning Center will open in spring of 2014.