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Program offers free preschool for students

A preschool on the USF campus is piloting a program that will provide free child care for students with children.

The USF Preschool for Creative Learning is partnering with the volunteer pre-kindergarten program (VPK) to make child care more affordable for USF students.

“We are partnering with VPK, funded through the Children’s Board of Tampa. Now, we can provide our services at even a lower price,” Magda Santos, director of the USF preschool said.

The VPK program provides free health care from 9 a.m. to noon.

To qualify for the program, a child must be four years old before Sept. 1, 2008.

The preschool also offers a full-time program from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and an after-school program that picks students up from Pizzo and Patel Elementary schools.

Santos said the preschool is registering students and has received positive reactions from those who toured it.

“We’re actually registering a lot of people and most of them seem to have a warm feeling for our school. They tend to notice our program is child-centered,” Santos said. “We definitely want them to be ready for kindergarten and make sure they have the skills they need.”

The preschool has approximately 105 students. The preschool cannot expand, and because there is little space, it makes do with what space it has.

“Our space is actually small. We try our best to utilize our space the very best but make sure we have plenty of room for the kids,” Santos said.

The center was created by the state and receives money from it, but has not been affected by the recent budget cuts.

“So far, we’ve been rather insulated. I’m hoping that will continue,” Santos said.

Sophomore Sophia Mustafa has an 18-month-old son and understands the hardships of students with children trying to study or go to class.

“I usually put him to bed at nine and study from nine to midnight,” she said.

Since her husband is skeptical about leaving their son in daycare, she usually leaves the child with family and close friends, but she said she plans on taking a tour of the preschool.

“If we get a chance to visit, my husband would be more comfortable with it,” she said. “It makes a guaranteed sitter.”