“It’s an exciting, caring and incredibly positive place” is how Matt Crittenden, the new director of Eulalie’s Garden, the Child Development Center at St. Ignatius School in Southeast Portland, characterized the re-imagined program for 3- to 5-year-olds.

“The opportunity to be part of a whole community is tremendous,” Crittenden explained. “Having the 3- to 5-year-olds involved with family groups that are led by eighth graders, going to Mass with the community and having our own dedicated music and PE classes is incredible for the kids. We love to visit the giant trees at the Loyola Jesuit center next door. We also get to eat with the big kids. All of this fosters a deep sense of belonging for our children.”

Originally started in 2012 with a grant from longtime parishioners Ted and Fran Van Veen, the program was 5 years old when a landmark study on the value of preschool concluded that a center-based education gave children a strong start to their school years.

“We’ve seen the benefits of having an integrated early childhood program in the school,” said Kelli Clark, St. Ignatius principal. “It’s great for all the kids to mentor our littlest ones. It’s also part of our educational mission to have a quality, affordable, faith-based option of childcare for our community.”

The program has been in such demand that last summer the room was expanded and can now support 36 children in two separate levels. Four staff members create a 1-to-9 ratio. While standing on the shoulders of the Van Veen family, the school also saw the opportunity to honor the legacy of the Sisters of the Holy Names by naming the program Eulalie’s Garden, the name Blessed Mother Marie Rose Durocher was called as a child. Mother Marie Rose was the foundress of the religious order. 

“We’re so grateful to be part of a community-based preschool that is all about helping my son prepare for elementary school while allowing him to be his best 5-year-old self,” said parent Simmi Singh Corcoran. “They are true partners in his development and, as a parent, I can’t ask for more.”

Students who attend Eulalie’s Garden do not need to reapply for admission to kindergarten.