Dr. Meidl's Scholarship & Student-Community Collaboration Supports Local Childcare Needs
When School of Education's Dr. Christopher Meidl was presented with the prospect of partnering with the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) and a vacant childcare center in the Hill District, he adeptly found an opportunity to apply Duquense University's mission to serve the community. As part of a community of practice, he collaborated with personal from HACP and the residents in the Bedford Dwellings neighborhood to invite ABK Learning & Development Center to begin serving the community. ABK was part of the renovated Bedford EnVision Center in Pittsburgh's Hill District. The reopening of the center last month was celebrated with a visit from Ben Carson, the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Director of Communications of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) Chuck Roher recognized and valued the need for quality childcare as part of the services offered. With the vacant childcare center already in Bedford Dwellings, he wanted a university partner to collaborate. Chuck reached out to personnel at Duquesne University's Center for Community-Engaged Teaching and Research (CETR) who brought Early Childhood Education Associate Professor Dr. Christopher Meidl (now Program Director) into the conversation. This opportunity was aligned with Dr. Meidl's desire to work collaboratively within the Pittsburgh community as part of a socially just and culturally invested approach to the Leading Teacher Program at Duquesne University, a main focus of the School of Education's mission.
Dr. Meidl instantly saw the great potential in this opportunity as the vacant childcare center was situated in close proximity to local universities, hospitals, and downtown. The location seemed to be in a prime spot to serve various constituents in need of childcare. However, Dr. Meidl recognized something else, the needs of the community this center served were unique. Traditional seven to five childcare center hours would not allow community members working second shift hours the ability to work in jobs most available to them. Many parents of this community as well as downtown workers had second or third shifts in the service or healthcare industry. Parents, some of whom had to take two buses to work, were severely limited with childcare which left them choosing between the physical security of their children or financial opportunities.
To explore the community's needs, Dr. Meidl partnered with HACP to use funding from the HUD Choice Neighborhood grant to survey the residents of the Bedford community who would be served by this childcare center. Dr. Meidl collaborated with colleagues Dr. James Schreiber of the School of Nursing, Dr. Jaime Muñoz of Department of Occupational Therapy, and Dr. Tiffany Sizemore-Thompson of the Law School to survey the Hill District's Bedford community for information about the needs related to health, education, and services. The data reinforced that there was a need for childcare with later hours with close proximity to the local Bedford Dwelling community. The educational component is where Dr. Meidl, his Early Childhood Education students, and childcare center director Lesley Crawford (a Duquesne University School of Education alum) would collaborate to support the children of ABK Learning & Development Center situated within the Bedford EnVision Center.
Dr. Meidl works closely with his Duquesne University students in the Early Childhood Education undergraduate and graduate program in the School of Education to serve the children in the childcare center with everything from developing educational curriculum, activities, and materials to cultivating a diversity library. Currently, he is working with HACP and ABK personnel on the creation of curriculum for a nature-based playground.
This childcare center was created with the sincerest intent to listen to and meet the needs of its community members. The work of Dr. Meidl and his students is a beautiful example of that good that can happen when you have an educator with a vision as well as the care, insight, and understanding of culture to authentically respond to the community's needs. Thanks for your incredible work, Dr. Meidl.
Photo credits: Chuck Roher, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh