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Photo Cutline: Photo #1: Early Learning Center Manager Jen Eder is ready with air hugs for the preschool graduates. Photo #2: ELC preschool student Colin Estes grins as he's presented with his preschool diploma. Photo #3: Proud mom Samantha Phelan with son Brady in the ELC preschool's drive-thru parade. Photo #4: ELC preschool student Tirth Patel receives an air hug.

The Early Learning Center (ELC) preschool at Harford Community College said farewell to their kindergarten-bound students by way of a "drive-thru" parade on Saturday, June 6. Teachers and staff had diplomas and goody buckets filled with fun items and treats for the students as a congratulations for the little graduates. Banners, signs, balloons, and hoots, hollers, and car horns made the event a festive and special occasion for the entire Early Learning Center community.

Says ELC Manager Jen Eder, "I was so thankful that we were able to have a drive-thru graduation so that we could celebrate all the children's accomplishments while at the ELC. Although it was different from past years, it was still so wonderful to see the families and the children smile as they came by to gather their goodies and their diplomas. I miss each of them so very much. We were hoping that the closure of the ELC was only going to be for a short period of time, but we made the best of the situation the last three months and were able to give them a wonderful celebration with all the teachers there to wish them the best on their special day."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions, the Early Learning Center closed its doors in mid-March along with the College, following the state's directives. But the learning and connection with students did not cease; teachers connected with students via weekly Zoom meetings with each class. Said Jen, "It was so nice to be able to see the boys and girls and to interact with their teachers. Each meeting had a different theme. One of my favorite Zoom meetings was a scavenger hunt. It was so much fun watching the students as they listened to the clue and then had to find the item in their house." The preschool also had a strong presence on the ELC's Facebook page. Each week, one of the ELC teachers would have a story time, a craft, or some other fun activity to keep the children connected and engaged.

The ELC offers full- and half-day preschool in a nurturing environment with an academic, MSDE-approved curriculum that ensures children are well prepared for kindergarten. The balanced curriculum incorporates the latest technology, including an interactive Smart Board in each classroom, to provide instruction in language arts, math and science—plus art, crafts, drama, and story time.

The ELC will be reopening its doors this fall with a date in September to be determined. The number of students will be limited, and CDC and Maryland State Department of Education guidelines will be followed to ensure that children and staff are kept safe. Current registered families will have priority, with any new families welcome, space permitting.

For more information, contact Early Learning Center Manager Jen Eder at jeder@harford.edu or visit Harford.edu/elc.

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