ODC Network Receives Gift to Develop New Education Campus

The ODC Network (ODC) is developing plans to expand its program services. The 20-year-old nonprofit has been a leader in offering nature-based education programs to our community and they are about to increase their impact.  A generous gift from one of the Center’s investors will enable the ODC to build a new education campus in Park Township.

 

One of the ODC’s strategic goals has been to expand access to their programs and services. “The Little Hawks Discovery Preschool has been a very successful program under heavy demand from our community,” shared Travis Williams, CEO of the ODC Network. “We have recognized the need for more access to not only early childhood education experiences, but also the nature-based educational model that we offer. Each year we have had to turn away families who are interested in our program simply because we did not have space. Our goal in opening this new campus is to expand our reach out into our community and create services where they currently are not offered.” In addition to offering nature-based preschool at this site, the ODC is also looking to offer wrap-around childcare services and create additional program and education training space. 

 

This project is being made possible by lead gifts from Karen and Larry Mulder and family covering the vast majority of the capital costs needed for this new campus.  The Mulder’s goal in supporting this project is to provide access to high-quality education services aimed toward the children of the highest need, providing equitable opportunities for all families in the community.  “We are extremely excited for the opportunity to expand our programming and services in partnership with the Mulder family,” Travis Williams shared. “We have been blessed by the generous leadership of so many people from our community over the past 20 years. This investment will not only be transformational for our community education system, it will add much needed services in this part of our community.”  

 

This week the ODC signed a purchase agreement with the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce to acquire 10 acres of land adjacent to the Park Township offices and nearby Cooper-Van Wieren Park for the new center. One of the ODC’s long-time partners, the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District is also excited for this expansion as it addresses a critical preschool need in the community.  Tami Mannes, Ph.D, Director of Early Childhood Services estimates that there are more than 400 children near this site that don’t have access to preschool services.  “We are excited to see this project take shape. Preschool is a top driver of kindergarten readiness and future school success” Dr. Tami Mannes shared.

 

Like its other early childhood programs, the ODC will work to remove barriers that prevent access.  By adding wrap around child care, scholarships, and partnering with the Great Start to Readiness Preschool Program through the ISD, the new education center will reach those for whom traditional tuition based preschool hasn’t been an option. Jane Clark, President and CEO of the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce, believes that providing this level of early childhood service will also help the local business community and their employees.  Jane added, “At a time like this, being able to partner with a group like the ODC helps us be a continued catalyst for business growth and development.  Child care is crucial to employers and families alike throughout our community.”

students running through grass

The ODC hopes to complete construction by the beginning of 2022 and open for students that fall. If you are interested in learning more, supporting the project, or enrolling your child in any of the ODC’s education programs you can contact odc@outdoordiscovery.org.  Se habla Español en ODC Network - Spanish/bilingual speaking community partners or families may contact Vanessa Gutierrez at vanessa@outdoordiscovery.org.