Indian Head Elementary School recently celebrated the opening of a Judy Center Early Learning Hub. It is the third Judy Center in the county, with the others housed at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School and Eva Turner Elementary School.

“The Judy Centers are unique to the state of Maryland,” Jennifer Gimmel, the Indian Head Judy Center’s coordinator, said. Programs held at the center benefit not only children but their parents. “It’s a safe place where the needs of children and their families are met,” Gimmel said.

Parent education classes, health services, and playgroups are among the programs held and facilitated at the centers. “We have so much research about how the brain develops, and play is such an important vehicle for learning,” Maria Navarro, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools, said.

Shona Grimes, the grandmother of a Turner prekindergarten student, said before her grandson entered school, she searched for activities to keep him engaged and prepare him for school. One day during a visit to the library, she heard about the Judy Center. “It seemed too good to be true,” Grimes said. “But it was everything they said and more. Everything they have done to help is as much for the parents as it is for the kids. I can’t imagine where we’d be without the Judy Center.”

Save for a Power Tots program that takes place at the neighboring Village Green, almost all the Indian Head Judy Center programs are held in a colorful modular classroom on the school grounds. The site shares space with the Community School program, providing support and services to needy families. The Community School program is housed at two schools in the county — Dr. Mudd and Indian Head.

Getting the word out

Before launching the center at Indian Head, CCPS pitched the idea to Kevin Lowndes, CCPS chief of teaching and learning. It didn’t take much for him to get on board. “Why would we not do this,” he asked.

Before the 2022-2023 school year, Gimmel and other Judy Center staff started outreach efforts to spread the word about the Judy Center at Indian Head Elementary. The center has about 15 children per hourlong playgroup and sets up events during evening hours and other times that are most convenient for working parents. “We don’t follow the traditional school schedule,” Gimmel pointed out a recent virtual activity where families made pizzas — after picking up make-your-own-pizza kits from the center — in their kitchens, following along with Judy Center staff through Zoom.

“They genuinely care about children,” Grimes said. “And they care about families.”

The Judy Center provides services for children and their families from birth to five years old. To attend Judy Center programs, families must live in an area zoned for the center. For more information, click here. 

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