SPRINGFIELD, Ill (WCIA) — Lincoln Land Community College has been awarded a large grant for early childhood development.

The Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) grant of nearly $650,000 will help those who work or who have worked in early childhood education or childcare in earning credentials, certificates and degrees.

They may also qualify for a scholarship that covers the total cost of attendance if they are pursuing an additional degree or certificate in the field. 

“There is a teacher shortage in early childhood education,” said Danyle Watkins, who serves as a early childhood education professor at LLCC. “In addition to playing an important role in the development of children, these professionals help keep our world as we know it going around.”

As part of the grant, LLCC is adding classes and now has an early childhood education advocate. Marlena Constant helps future students with applications for the college, scholarships and financial aid. She also provides support and connects students with any needed services.

“I’m a barrier remover,” Constant said. “When things like needs for technology, Wi-Fi or gas money are hurdles to your education, we can assist. We are about cohorts, friendship, collaboration and built-in supports.”

LLCC also plans on implementing prior learning assessments and developing incentives for completion and spaces specifically for early childhood education students to study and recieve assistance.

ECACE is also collaborating with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to provide the scholarships.

More information on LLCC’s early childhood education program can be found here.