Having raised four children, Denis and Terry Sirois know what it’s like to balance a family with life’s other responsibilities. So when the time came to decide where they wanted their next gifts to the U of S to go, they decided that supporting child care for students was a natural fit. They have donated $60,000 towards this need, which will be used to help build a brand new child care facility on campus.
Terry Sirois says, “We’re very happy to be in a position to help the university on this project. We’ve always given to Edwards School of Business in the past, so this is a little different direction for us. But education has been a big part of our kids’ lives, we’ve always promoted it in our house, and we think it is so important.”
The new facility, which will provide 90 child care spaces, will be located south of the Williams Building (which houses the existing USSU child care centre) and west of the Souris Hall residence. The building will be designed to provide a stimulating, comfortable and supportive environment for children, offering plenty of space to display their artwork, as well as child-level windows and direct access to the outdoor play area from all the rooms. Construction on the child care centre is in progress and expected to be complete in 2016.
About 75 per cent of the new child care spaces will be reserved for the children of university students and about 25 per cent for the children of university employees. Offering child care is essential to attract and retain students, faculty and staff to the university, says Patti McDougall, vice provost of teaching and learning, who is leading the project. It’s also a particularly important factor in increasing accessibility to post-secondary education for Aboriginal students, who have a demonstrated need for child care. “As a university we’ve become increasingly aware of the need for more child-care spaces. We know we’re short and this will help,” says McDougall.
Denis and Terry Sirois believe that having child care available right on campus makes a huge difference to students who are parents. Terry says, “If a parent needs to take the bus and has to go all the way to a daycare, and then continue on to classes, it’s just more convenient for everyone, and a better plan, if their children can stay near school. It encourages education and encourages learning.”
Denis agrees, “If someone has the initiative to go to university and improve their education and they already have a family, that shouldn’t cause them to think that they can’t get that education. We should try to knock down barriers to acquiring that education.” He believes that on-campus will provide students with the comfort of knowing that their child is within walking distance during the school day and that they won’t be distracted from their studies.
Denis and Terry both grew up in Saskatoon, and the U of S has been a big part of their lives over the years. Denis earned a Master of Commerce in 1977, and Terry took some university night classes, including anthropology and business law. Because he had a couple part-time jobs to pay for tuition, Denis says he mainly “stuck to his books” while he was at school. His hard work paid off and after a couple years in banking after graduation, he went to work for PotashCorp, where he is now Vice-President and Corporate Controller. The couple’s children also all attended the U of S.
Terry is on the Board of Directors for the Saskatoon Preschool Foundation, which provides financial assistance to families who can’t afford to send their kids to preschool. She says, “We believe that early childhood education is the start of a good foundation in life. If you don’t get a good start, you won’t progress.” She says the goal behind their gift to the child care centre the best future possible. “If their parents can go to university and get the kind of education they want, then they’ll have a better life.”
The Siroises hopes their donation will encourage other alumni to help contribute to the child care centre to raise the rest of the capital costs, the costs of furnishings, and so on. Denis says, “From my own perspective, if you attended the U of S, there’s always an opportunity to try and make it better. Our city has been blessed by the fact that we have a large university, so we should try to sustain it and make it better, so we can attract new people.” Terry agrees, “The university gave our family the start that we needed—we’ve been very fortunate. It’s expanded our careers. We want to give back to the organisation that helped us as a family. We’re in a position to do so, and it’s important to give back where credit is due.”
-written by Susan Pederson