Sierra gives ‘A Bright Start’ to childhood education
Children look out the window at A Bright Start Development Center, which is located at 509 S. Muskogee Ave., in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra owns it and provides early childhood development skills and learning. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra helps a child during dramatic playtime on April 5 at A Bright Start Development Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Children learn early childhood skills such as piecing together puzzles and reading books on April 5 at A Bright Start Development Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra always dreamed of running his own business and educating children. That dream became reality when he opened an early childhood facility called A Bright Start Development Center.
It caters to children ages 0-12 years old with gross motor development and guided learning in a school-like atmosphere. “We try to run a routine similar to school. The kids (have) some group-setting experiences,” Sierra said.
He said he funded the business with his savings and help from family.
“A lot of the equipment we’ve been blessed to get donated…what could be thousands of dollars in equipment was donated,” Sierra said.
After working with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in 2015 to ensure compliance, including having proper equipment and passing necessary inspections, the center opened in February 2016 with four babies. Enrollment eventually grew to 30 children.
He said his facility is now licensed to take up to 40 children up to 12 years old, but mainly focuses on infants zero to 11 months, toddlers 12-23 months and 2- to 4-year-olds.
“I was excited at the turn of the year into (20)17. I thought this is awesome. So January of (20)17 I…put all our ducks in a row and we increased our capacity to 40. We don’t have all spots taken yet, but we have that potential to grow to 40 now. So it’s really exciting to see that it didn’t take us a year to actually grow. So I was really happy how we ended our first year and started our second,” he said.
The center offers children a social setting, including breakfast; gross motor development (dancing to music and circle time); guided learning (art, dramatic play, science and math); lunch; play time; and rest time.
“We try to keep them engaged. We do want them developing. So everything that is already here in place does benefit the different areas of development,” Sierra said. “We try to add to it by giving them the activities, the art activities, the science activities, the sensory activities. They are very important to development at this age.”
He said the goal is to give the children “a bright start to school and their education.”
Sierra said he works with parents on scheduling and costs. DHS sets costs through a stars program, and the center is rated as a two-star program. Infants are $155 per week. Toddlers are $144 per week. Two- to 3-year-olds are $129 per week, and 4-year-olds and up are $106.50 per week.
He said his center is contracted to accept subsidy payments through the DHS, CN, Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma and Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma.
“Everything we do here is geared toward helping a family. Number one is providing a quality place of care for a child. That’s our number one, and making sure that a child’s taken care of. Everything else that revolves around that involves the family,” Sierra said.
Sierra said he wants to open two more early childhood sites and an immersion school to teach the Cherokee language. “Then eventually I want a charter school because I want to…continue our goal of giving young adults a bright start in the future. I want to be able to prepare them for college, prepare them for trade school, prepare them for whatever they want to do in life.”
The center is located at 509 S. Muskogee Ave. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 918-772-5155 or visit A Bright Start Development Center on Facebook.