Alumni rising: UWGB alumni provide quality early education at Encompass

encompass-group-topEncompass Early Education and Childcare is a nationally accredited organization that provides quality education for children beginning at six weeks of age. The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay plays a significant role in providing staffing for the seven-center organization, with more than 20 Encompass staff members holding a UWGB degree.

The vast majority of staff members are educators, while a few, such as Candee Hendricks ’99 (front row, fourth from left in the photo above), find their way into the organization through other means. Hendricks started as an accountant for Encompass in 2002 and is now its Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Instead of the traditional feature, we decided a Q & A from a few Encompass employees who call UWGB their alma mater would be a better showcase of diversity, talent and impact.

Candee Hendricks, ‘99 Chief Financial Officer
Major: Accounting

Q: How did you get your start?
A: I started as an intern at the C.A. Lawton Company and was hired as an accountant when I graduated. I worked there three years and started at Encompass in December of 2002. I am now the Chief Financial Officer for the organization.

Q: There are a number of UWGB graduates at Encompass. What can you tell us about them?
A: I’ve noticed that the UWGB graduates employed at Encompass are prepared for their career. Several UWGB graduates have moved up the career ladder and are in leadership positions here. Encompass is required to have teachers with degrees in each of our classrooms due to our national accreditation standards. Although UWGB does not have an early childhood degree program, several graduates from UWGB employed at Encompass have Human Development or Elementary Education degrees.

Melissa Franken, ‘90 Center Director at the Bellin Center
Major: Human Development

Q: Tell us about your career path:
A: I started out managing retail stores and once I married and had children went into the early childhood field. I started out as a preschool teacher and then moved to Green Bay and started as a Center Director for Encompass.

Q: Any observations about early education and care?
A: Early education and care for our youngest people is extremely important. We’ve long known the importance of the first years of a child’s life, but now studies can prove it. Brain development in those early years is critical. We also know that teachers need to learn strategies for challenging children because we are seeing an increase in children with challenging behaviors.

Candace Dantinne ‘99, Toddler Teacher at the Bellin Center
Major: History

Q: How did you end up at Encompass with a history degree? What about your future?
A: My sister, who also works at Encompass, recommended me. I found that the culture at Encompass reflects my values — respect, appreciation, communication, honesty, and laughter. The culture and values of Encompass make working there enjoyable and fulfilling. I was prepared for the position from experience and with training from additional child care classes. I see myself continuing to provide children with a program that develops the whole child — intellectually, socially, emotionally, and physically.

Q: What are your observations regarding the childcare industry?
A: The first thing I learned is that Encompass is not your typical day care. Encompass utilizes the High Scope Curriculum that emphasizes “Active Participatory Learning.” Children’s interests and choices are at the heart of the program while giving direct, hands-on experiences with people, objects, events, and ideas. Children construct their own knowledge through interactions with the world and people around them.
Being a non-profit and having multiple funding sources leads to the complexity of the organization. There are always new challenges and opportunities. Encompass partners with area school districts to provide four-year-old Kindergarten at five locations. Encompass tries to provide opportunities for all children to receive quality early education and care. Some of the children in our care receive state assistance to make care more affordable. Encompass receives funding from United Way and other community support in order to provide scholarship assistance to families who cannot afford the full fee rates.

Heather Hrabik ‘13, 4K teacher at Bellin Center
Major: Education

Q: What do you like best about Encompass?
A: I finished my student teaching in January and applied for a temporary position at Encompass that since became permanent. I like how community oriented Encompass is. The classroom is like a family — we eat together, learn together, and play together.

Brianna Hegewald ’13 Administrative Support Specialist
Major: Communication

Q: How did you end up at Encompass?
A: Shortly after I graduated, I discovered Encompass had a position open for an administrative support specialist. Being familiar with Encompass’ values and high standards, I knew it was the place where I wanted to work. The passion for kids is evident in every aspect of the organization — from the teachers, to center directors, to the Boards and the Leadership Team. Encompass takes in even the most difficult of children, loves them and gives them the opportunity to succeed that they might not have had if they had gone to child care and/or early education elsewhere. And most importantly, they don’t single out the kids who may be a little different. They truly believe in giving all kids the same attention and affection they deserve, while preparing them for elementary and middle school. I can honestly say I’ve never been so proud to work for a company.

Q: Were you prepared for the job?
A: Without my education from UWGB, I would not have been prepared to take on the fast-paced, detailed job here at Encompass. In fact, I was so prepared that I was soon assigned even more tasks that were not included in my original job description. In a few years, I will still be able to say I work for an organization that values its employees, value and mission as much as Encompass does. I also anticipate that I will be able to take on even more responsibilities and continue to grow as an asset to this organization.

Photo at top of post: Encompass employees who proudly attended UWGB, from left to right, front row: Kimberly Dagit, Heather Hrabik, Jane Brzezinski, Candee Hendricks, Candace Dantinne, Nicole Moua, Breanna Conard, and Kelsey DuBois. Back row: Annette Seidl, Brianna Hegewald, Crystal Kempton, Melissa Franken, Deanna VandenLangenBerg, Renee Huebner, Antoinette Thomas, Jennifer Feyen. Missing: Amanda Delagarza, Sheryl Ledvina, Sue Loberger, Amy Massey, Christina McKee, Houa Moua, Barbara Nenning, Elizabeth Rowling-Delaurel and Grace Schindel.