as interviewed by Monica Marshall, Communications & Data Liaison, Denver’s Early Childhood Council
As a family-run program, there’s no wonder why Daddy Mom Daycare, a Level 5 Colorado Shines rated program, serves as an epicenter for the community. Siblings Jeremy Gonzales – Program Director, Jenay Arrendondo – Nutrition and Community Outreach Director, and Jon Blizz – Administrative Director, tell us the story of the impact Daddy Mom has had on their lives and how they are influencing their community.
1. Why did you start your program? / What is your mission?
It’s kind of a cool story. We have been family-owned and operated since day one. It started with my grandma, Virginia Gonzalez. She’s my dad’s mom and instead of calling her grandma, I called her Daddy Mom. She was our pre-k teacher. It turned into everyone calling her Daddy Mom. She was super cool; she still is. When we had the opportunity to purchase the building, we named it in her honor. -Jeremy
2. How do you get families involved in the early childhood development of their children?
That comes from a day-to-day relationship. Our teachers are involved. And because we’re involved, our parents are comfortable. We’re not afraid to hug the child, or even hug the parents if we need to, just to create that fun and comfortable environment. And by doing that, our parents feel welcome and our relationship with them is phenomenal. They want to be involved. They’re asking us ‘when can I volunteer?’, ‘what do you need for the classroom?’ which is pretty cool. -Jeremy
It’s not just the investment in the child, it’s the investment in the family. It’s more than a 9-to-5 to every single teacher here. It’s showing up to kids’ games after they already went through the program. It’s these teachers seeing where the kids are academically years later. It’s that relationship and community built of belonging to Daddy Mom. If you went to Daddy Mom, you will always be a part of Daddy Mom. -Jenay
3. What is a favorite lesson or skill you teach?
I think where Daddy Mom excels is in teaching life lessons – beyond academics, beyond ABCs and 123’s. We learn to share, we learn to have fun, we sing songs that will stick with you for the rest of your life. Our kids sing a certain song when they’re learning their colors in Spanish. -Jeremy
4. What’s something happening in the community that affects what goes on inside your program?
With Denver changing so much, the community that we serve is changing. It’s such a beautiful opportunity to see different cultures, to see different people from different communities joining ours, wanting to be as involved as they can. It’s the investment in the community that is amazing because these parents want to participate, they want to be involved in their child’s life so much more. It provides for us, as a center, all of these worlds to connect. -Jenay
5. Are wages for early childhood teachers a challenge for you? If so, how?
We’re about 80% CCAP (Colorado Child Care Assistance Program). We rely heavily on the state to pay us. If a child is off one week or if the system doesn’t work, it’s hard to keep that consistency, especially with the high-quality teachers that we’ve molded. We’re all in this together, but we continue to mold each other to this five-level status (Colorado Shines). -Jon
6. What’s unique about your program?
Saying that you used to go to Daddy Mom means something in this community. It truly holds the weight of having a sense of belonging. It’s created from the first time you walk in those doors. We’re constantly getting parents that come in because of referrals. We even have kids that used to go here who are now bringing their kids. We have teachers that come back and used to go here. They want to be a part of Daddy Mom. We have people who want to donate to Daddy Mom because this is where it started for them. It was a fundamental aspect of their lives. -Jenay
7. What do you want the community to know about your program?
We are a center that believes in children. We believe in parents. We have invested in ourselves to help the community. The parent doesn’t have to go somewhere else to get quality education. We are easily accessible, we have an open-door policy, we are ready to share our help in any way. We are bringing excellence to where it’s uncommon. -Jeremy
We are a staple in the Southwest Denver community. We want people to see what we’re doing. We’re an active community center. We want our voice to be heard. -Jenay
8. What’s the best advice you’ve received about working with young children?
Love, unconditional love. That’s what you wear, it’s what you choose to do. It requires love, it’s the key to success. -Jeremy
To enjoy every moment with the kids and to be present. You can get stressed, but it’s impactful and you tend not to realize how everything is new for children. You could easily miss the impact for that child. Being present in the moment, seeing them figure out a pattern or puzzle is true learning. -Jenay
Nothing is more pure. They have nothing to hide and are vulnerable. Adults hide behind masks, but they (the children) are not trying to impress anyone. -Jon
Editor’s note: The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.