In early 2014, Alayna Johnson was happily married to Joe, a hard working father who provided for her and their three children. However, everything soon changed in April when Johnson discovered Joe was using cocaine. This startling realization forced Johnson to make tough decisions. She put her children’s health and safety first, leaving Joe and setting out to become the sole provider for her family.
During this difficult time, Johnson learned that she was pregnant with their fourth child. However, this did not stop her from enrolling at Southern Utah University that summer. Johnson was able to complete 21 credits before her youngest was born in December.
One of the biggest challenges Johnson faced was childcare for her newborn. The cost of daycare forced Johnson to take out student loans, and when she couldn’t find a sitter, she had to take her baby girl to classes, group projects and meetings with professors.
Johnson needed a safe, clean and affordable childcare facility on campus for her four kids. From her own personal experience, she started investigating ways to make a childcare facility on campus a reality.
Johnson started talking and networking with others on campus and the project took off when Kathy Wyatt, first lady of SUU, came on board.
“I researched female graduation rates at SUU and was shocked at the huge decline after the age of 25,” said Wyatt. “When I was told much of that drop was due to having children and the lack of funds for child care, I knew something needed to be done.”
Wyatt formed a committee of influential individuals who now meet every month to discuss ideas, find sponsors and overcome obstacles. In the spring of 2017, the project received a generous donation from the Sorenson LegacyFoundation turning this long-awaited dream a reality.
The Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child & Family Development Center will be committed to the retention and graduation of SUU students by providing a high quality facility offering on-campus childcare, a preschool lab, and parent and family support.
Johnson and Wyatt teared up as they shared their excitement for the progress of this project.
“This was a dream a year ago and now it’s more of a reality,” said Wyatt. “Seeing how many people are willing to help is exciting because I know it will change lives.”
With flexible care hours and an on-campus location, Johnson said the new center will be convenient, affordable and a safe option for SUU students. The facility will offer drop-off care instead of all-day care, which will significantly lower the cost for parents. Having the preschool and daycare in the same place will decrease operation and maintenance costs making it more efficient.
“Having walked through that fiery trial myself I know the value of a childcare center on campus,” Johnson said. “It is such an important need, and one that has been ignored for too long.”
Johnson hopes that her project will help many students at SUU, and families in the Cedar City community. Students in the education program will be able to use facilities to complete their practicum hours.
Ultimately the project was able to put Johnson shoulder-to-shoulder with some amazing people in the SUU community. After finishing her education and working on this project, Johnson said she is not afraid of anything.
“I know I can accomplish anything I set my heart to,” Johnson said.
To learn more about the The Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child & Family Development Center or to donate to the cause visit www.suu.edu/childcenter.