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Program assistant Pat Cole is the engine that keeps Campus Children’s Center running

July 13, 2016

Seventy children are enrolled at IU’s Campus Children’s Center, and Pat Cole knows which ones can’t have strawberries, peanuts or milk. Cole has carefully filed away copies of their birth certificates, stepped in as a substitute in their classrooms and washed their dishes.

Cole is the center’s program assistant. With a kerchief covering her hair and an apron over her clothes, she is typically the first person parents and kids see when they walk in to the childcare facility each day.

Pat Cole

Pat Cole, program assistant at the Campus Children's Center, prepares a snack for kids. | PHOTO BY CHAZ MOTTINGER, IU COMMUNICATIONS

“It melts your heart when they come through the door, call me by name, look for me,” Cole said of the center’s children ranging from infants to 5-year-olds. “I strive to make sure I speak to each child and adult.”

Cole’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. When Inside IU made a call out for “Pride of Indiana” notes of appreciation for university faculty and staff, the thank-you’s to Cole came pouring in.

Parents and fellow staff members describe her as a warm and loving person who works tirelessly to make sure the children receive the best care. When they come home, their kids mention their interactions with “Ms. Pat.”

“With a friendly smile, kind word and recognition of the real struggles that little people face each day, Pat creates an atmosphere of respect that honors and affirms these tiny citizens and their families,” said Megan Ray, associate director of undergraduate programs in the Kelley School of Business.

Cole’s duties at the Campus Children’s Center vary widely. That’s part of what she likes about the job.

“No two days are alike,” she said. “You just don’t know. I think that’s the fun of it.”

Cole has a desk, but she’s rarely behind it. Most of the time, she’s on her feet.

“If I get an hour and a half at my desk in an eight-hour day, that’s good,” she said.

She plans and prepares the children’s breakfast and snacks, making sure they are always low in sugar and salt. She shops for groceries and orders classroom supplies and ensures the student-to-child ratios are maintained at the center, which means she sometimes serves as a substitute in a classroom. Three times a day, Cole can be found washing dishes. She also answers the phone and keeps a watchful eye on who comes in and out of the center’s locked front door.

“Pat Cole is the engine that keeps the Campus Children's Center running,” said Michele Kelmer, staff member in University Information Technology Services. “She is kind and patient with all of the children, knowing each one by name. Pat takes great care in providing healthy snacks that the children will eat; lends a helping hand with all sorts of activities from the playground to nap time; and takes care of her administrative duties to boot!”

Pat Cole

Pat Cole, program assistant at the Campus Children's Center. | PHOTO BY CHAZ MOTTINGER, IU COMMUNICATIONS

In addition to the day-to-day tasks of keeping kids fed and cleaning up after them, Cole is also responsible for reporting student enrollment to the state, running expenses reports, and keeping account of tuition, parent fees and deposits.

Cole has been at the Campus Children’s Center for three years since leaving her position as director of the Indiana Accreditation Project for the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children. She has been working in the early childhood field since 1989 after attaining her bachelor’s degree in education and biological sciences and Master of Public Health from IU.

Cole calls it working on “the front lines” of child care and says she wouldn’t have made the change if not for the center’s staff and its national accreditation.

“I would not have gone to just any place when I decided to be on the front lines,” she said. “With everyone here, from every staff member and aide, the kids are first.”

It’s a philosophy that Cole lives up to each day as she relishes the chance to interact with the Campus Children’s Center’s kids, parents, staff and director.

“To me, the reward is the opportunity to be here,” she said.

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