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The sun has yet to rise over the Organ Mountains in Las Cruces New Mexico, and Valeria Holloway has already disinfected every corner of her home-based childcare center, sanitized all toys and ensured activity stations are set for safe distance learning.
It’s a routine repeated often throughout each day, even before the pandemic. And it’s only one part of a role Valeria tripped into years ago as word quickly spread about her quality care family-centered love for every child.
After 12 years in the medical field, Holloway remembers the day she discovered her calling.
“I had a toddler who had not uttered a sound,” she explains “I remember sitting down with the parents, and I asked them if they had a hearing test done, because I believed the child was hearing impaired.” What she had thought was indeed correct, and her observation set the child’s learning path in motion. “I not only helped the child, but the family. At that moment, I knew I wanted to help children, especially children with special needs.”
Valeria says, “All children are special. Creating a loving environment to embrace all children, especially those that need it most, is what is so important in today’s world.
At 6 a.m., the first toddler arrives at Valeria’s Best of the Southwest Day Care. As the other 10 children — some with special needs — arrive at their scheduled times, parents begin the daily routine of taking temperatures, signing paperwork and adjusting masks on their little ones. The parents – most who are essential workers – leave to begin their workday with confidence their children are in good hands.
Valeria has been taking care of children for nearly 20 years, and she’s not retiring any time soon. As she puts it, “I’m asking God to give me at least 12 more years because I made a commitment to the multiple generations of my center’s families.
No doubt, a testament to her commitment of treating every child as her own.
Valeria is just one of many providers across the state with the large task to care and prepare New Mexico’s children during the pandemic. The impacts of the pandemic have catapulted already fragile child care systems to collapse, and exacerbated existing racial and ethnic inequities for parents, children, and workers in the child care system across the country. Building an equitable, high-quality, early childcare system during this unprecedented time will take coordination and collaboration among New Mexico’s providers, community leaders, advocates and state government officials to assess and acknowledge the gaps to ensure all children thrive.
Read more about New Mexico’s commitment to prioritize early childhood education.
New Mexico Early Childhood Education Series
"The Next Generation: New Mexico’s Greatest Resource"
Check out the other stories about the early childhood system in New Mexico.