Magnolia Society visits early learning academy

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 31, 2020

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WEST POINT — Members of the Magnolia Society, a Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of West Georgia, visited the Chattahoochee Early Learning Academy Thursday morning to see how three-year-olds were adjusting to classroom learning and bonding with classmates.

CELA is in its first year in West Point Technology Park, and the Leadership Council is one of the partners that helped get it started.

CELA Board Chair Dr. Lacey Southerland of Point University led a tour of the building. Stops included a multipurpose room where children can play on the bad weather days and a playground where they can go when the weather is nice. Both areas have age-appropriate equipment for three-year-olds.

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The most-anticipated stop on the tour was the classroom where visitors could see the children in a learning environment. Five of the seven children enrolled in the CELA start-up program were present on Thursday and were excited to receive tiger-faced book bags.

The children were proud to show their guests the dinosaur creations they made yesterday and that now adorn a classroom wall. Their teacher, Ellen Fox, showed them how to use tongs to place tiny dinosaur “bones” at the right spot on the outline of a brontosaurus. It’s a good way for them to learn manual dexterity at a very young age.

“The socialization and the learning that’s been taking place this year is remarkable,” Dr. Southerland said. “These children know shapes, colors and letters. Some can even spell their names. It makes such a difference to develop learning skills early in life. They will be very mature for their age when they start pre-k next year.”

West Point Mayor Steve Tramell is a big booster of CELA.

“We want every three-year-old living in West Point ready for pre-k, and we also take children from the surrounding area, too. Our overall goal is to have our children reading on the third grade level by the time they are in the third grade. Getting an early start is a good way to do that. We want to thank Lacey Southerland and Point University for their help. We couldn’t have done this without them.”

Also playing key roles in CELA’s fast start at Heather Hoats, the director; Monica Barber, who coordinates the city’s youth programs. and of course, Ms. Fox, the lead teacher.

“This is awesome,” said Patty Youngblood, president of the Magnolia Society. “This is what we are all about. We are trying to raise funds for early learning, and I am most impressed by what I have seen today.”

On Thursday, the Magnolia Society, which is affiliated with the United Way of West Georgia, presented a $3,000 check in support of CELA.

“We appreciate their support,” Tramell said. “Donations mean a lot to what we are doing here. The West Point Housing Authority, the Friends of West Point and organizations have helped us, and we appreciate that. “

Southerland said that she is hoping to have 12 to 14 children next year.

“We think this program is good for all three-year-olds,” she said. “We’d love to have children from diverse backgrounds. We know that being in our Learning Academy would be a good experience for them. We are a privately funded 501(c)3 and can apply for grants. Anyone can help us by sponsoring a child for a semester.”

Applications are now being taken. Any child who will be three years of age by Sept. 1, 2020, can be enrolled for the 2020-21 academic year. The tuition is $359 a month. Federal guidelines will be applied in consideration of families applying for scholarships. To contact CELA, go to or dial (706) 2770.

Point University students and Legacy Link trainees work as classroom assistants to Fox. The daily schedule runs from 8 a.m. until noon, five days per week. CELA uses the Creative Curriculum for Preschool as well as the Georgia Early Leaning & Development Standards (GELDS). The classroom setting makes use of best practices to enhance learning through a play-based approach. Each week, the children take part in music, art, literacy, math-based manipulatives, large motor activities, discovery/science, blocks, dramatic play, technology, stories and small-group language activities focused on pre-reading skills.

Each day a breakfast and a snack are served. Each month, the children are taken on field trips to such destinations as the local fire station. Visitors make cupcakes with the children and talk to them about animals.

“The Point University Education Department utilizes the learning environment as a setting for observation and research in the field of early childhood,” Southerland said. “Our goal is to create an environment that maximizes each child’s potential to learn and grow. They will be well prepared to enter pre-k next year.”