Kidz Korner supports student parents

By Anthony D. Ávila
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, January 21, 2005

A play center for children opened last month in an effort to make the UA more student-parent friendly.

Kidz Korner, located on the fourth floor of the Student Union Memorial Center in the Commuter Student Lounge, is a modest-sized play area for children to entertain themselves while their parents study.

However, children must be supervised by a parent or guardian while they play, said Heather Gasser, senior coordinator for Commuter Student Affairs.

"We really want to stress that parental supervision is required," Gasser said. "Kidz Korner does not function as a day care, so parents cannot just leave their kids there," Gasser said.

Gasser said she and other student parents are frustrated with the lack of child-care resources at the UA, and Kidz Korner is only a small step in the ongoing effort to bring a daycare center to campus.

"The fact is, the UA is the only Pac-10 school that does that have a daycare facility on campus," Gasser said.

The Dean of Students Office allocated $2,000 to launch Kidz Korner, which is furnished with a toy cabinet, toys, a television, VCR, videos and a 2 1/2 foot tall portable wall.

The idea for Kidz Korner, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, originated from a study conducted by the Commission on the Status of Women to determine what the university could do for parents on campus, said Zelda Harris, CSW chairwoman.

Commissioners of the Committee on Campus Climate, a CSW survey group responsible for assessing the safety, diversity and civic needs of the university, conducted a study on student parents in 2003 on which they based several recommendations, Harris said.

One recommendation was to install changing stations in the campus lavatories, which was implemented in 10 buildings at the beginning of fall 2004.

Another recommendation was to have a play center on campus so children could play while their parents study.

Gasser and Harris agreed that they would eventually like to see a campus daycare facility, but for now Kidz Korner is serving a purpose.

Omar Sotelo, who is 18 months old, found enough toys at Kidz Korner to stay entertained for 20 minutes while his mother, Diane Sotelo, waited for his grandmother to pick him up.

Sotelo, a public administration graduate student, is the president of Babycats Too, the graduate student addition to Babycats, a UA club for student parents.

Babycats and Babycats Too function as one unit, but each has a president because graduate and undergraduate students might have different needs, Sotelo said.

Harris said if Kidz Korner is successful, other play centers could be set up in other buildings, such as the UA Main Library.

"We should first figure out how many children are using it, and hopefully it will be a model for other Kidz Korners on campus," Harris said.

Gasser agreed that Kidz Korner is just the beginning of the solution.

"On the basic level, the purpose of Kidz Korner is to provide a safe place for student parents to bring a child while they study," Gasser said. "But symbolically, the purpose is to tell student parents that they are valued members of the community and we care about them," Gasser said.