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Gorham Learning Center marks 35th year with Oct. 9 Open House

Director Melinda Beaulieu of Gorham built block towers in the toddler room on Thursday morning at the Gorham Community Learning Center. She hopes that community members from Gorham, Shelburne and Randolph will come at 5:30 p.m. to the Wednesday, Oct. 9, Open House to celebrate GCLC's 35th year of serving the community. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
October 02, 2013
GORHAM — The Gorham Community Learning Center (GCLC) will celebrate its 35th year of operation providing a foundation for educational success and lifelong learning with an Open House, starting at 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Oct. 9.

Melinda Beaulieu of Gorham, who earned her B.S. in Early Childhood Education from Granite State College in May, has been the Center's director for nine months. She has long been associated with the Learning Center.

Beaulieu was a student herself back in the days when the program, started in 1978, was a two-mornings-a-week social nursery school for a few 3- and 4-year-olds in the basement of the Congregational Church.

When she was a teenager at Gorham High School, Beaulieu was a Center volunteer and then she became a staff member during her college years.

"In 1999, the Gorham Community Learning Center became a non-profit and moved into the Family Resource Center building on Main Street where it has been since," Beaulieu explained in an on-site interview on Thursday morning. "Now the Center offers morning and afternoon preschool, morning and afternoon toddler programs, as well as kindergarten transition and pick-up, plus structured after-school programs that serve children from 18 months old up to 12 years.

"We have an ongoing relationship with the Ed Fenn School and SAU #20's special education program. Our preschool coordinator works closely with the kindergarten teacher to coordinate curriculum, including Jolly Phonics and Handwriting without Tears, so that our students are prepared for the half-day kindergarten program." The Center serves 75 students with no more than 35 on site at any one time.

"We have 10 toddlers and a number of pre-schoolers on our wait list," the director explained, adding that the need for a high-quality program keeps growing.

Parent conferences are also an important element of GCLC's collaborative approach.

"We're leading the way among centers in the North Country in the use of TSGold, a web-based program of developmental evaluation for children up to age six, so that parents and teachers are able to appropriately facilitate each individual child's growth and progress," explained board of director's president Angela Brown of Randolph in an e-mail exchange. "We're also in the process of a feasibility study in order to find a larger location."

Working through the town of Gorham, the Learning Center received a $12,000 Community Development Block Grant and secured the services of Oak Point Associates of Portsmouth that specializes in architectural design and engineering, Beaulieu explained. "Right now, they're exploring the relative advantages of building a new building versus renovating an existing one. Oak Point is familiar with the many code and safety issues that apply to a Learning Center such as ours. And we're also seriously considering adding infant care facilities."

Right now, the most pressing financial need is transportation.

"Our van just gave up the ghost, and we are in desperate need of a new source of transportation," Brown said. A 12-passenger van is needed not only for trips to and from the Ed Fenn Elementary School in bad weather, but also for field trips, especially in the summer.

"Our staff will give short presentations at the Open House and light refreshments will also be served," Beaulieu said. "We very much hope that community members, including those who have benefited directly from the Center's existence and growth over the years, will come to celebrate with us next Wednesday."

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