Girls Club of Los Angeles (GCLA)

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Girls Club of Los Angeles (GCLA)

eConnections will be recognizing excellence in Early Care and Education by focusing our spotlight on a different NAEYC accredited school each edition.

The Girls Club of Los Angeles/Faith Children’s Center (GCLA) is a non-profit agency located in the Los Angeles West Athens Community. GCLA focuses on meeting the needs of underprivileged, low income families and at-risk children, living in West Athens, Westmont, Hawthorne and other communities in South Los Angeles. For more than 45 years, GCLA has been an advocate and community change agent working to provide children, youth and families with the skills to overcome the challenges they face. Its aim is to transform the lives of children (most especially in the early learning years where the return on investment is the highest) and to help families.

GCLA staff consists of 16 paid, 40 volunteers and an intergenerational, multicultural English-Spanish speaking team of administrators, teachers, parents, grandparents and parent advocates. GCLA’s priority work is to serve 80 children daily, ages two to five years old, with a focus on high-quality early education, youth development and community outreach. Hours of operation are from 7:30am to 4:30pm, Monday-Friday for full-day or half-day programs.

Our philosophy is to maximize the developmental benefits for each child. We believe that a high-quality program must promote, support and enhance a child’s development and growth. The theoretical framework underlining the children's program is integrationist in nature; we have various learning theories that have influenced our philosophy. Some of those theories are Piaget’s theory on how children think and learn as well as his principles of physical development, Erikson's stages of socio-emotional development and others such as Maslow, Smilansky, Vygotsky and Gardner. GCLA has maintained accreditation for more than 12 years.

Our goal in seeking accreditation is to create high-quality learning experiences and guide program improvement for young children and families. The hardest part of the accreditation process was getting staff onboard. The process was challenging but staff felt the process was achievable, and we have attained three successful accreditations.

The greatest area of improvement is the reciprocal relationship with families. We recognize and respect that parents are their child’s first and primary teachers. With parents, we strive to provide a trusting and caring environment in which our professional skills and personal talents enable children to grow intellectually, socially, physically and culturally. We encourage centers and schools to become accredited to demonstrate their commitment to excellence and equity. 

Very seldom is there recognition given to early education. Accreditation gives a center the opportunity to be recognized for excellence in ten standards:, 1) Relationships, 2) Curriculum, 3) Teachings, 4) Assessment of Child Progress, 5) Health, 6) Teachers, 7) Families, 8) Community Relationships, 9) Physical Environment, and 10) Leadership and Management.