WASILLA— CCS Early Learning is celebrating their 50th anniversary in July.

According to CCS Executive Director Mark Lackey, the overall celebration will be limited in scope, but not in spirit. He said the primary way they’re celebrating this historic milestone is through a series of video interviews with alumni discussing how much the program means to them.

“It’s just neat to hear how our organization has been involved with so many lives over the past 50 years,” Lackey said.

Lackey said they don’t have any large events or gatherings planned due to the current situation, opting for a subtle solution without sacrificing the meaningfulness of the moment. He said they’ve been actively sharing these videos online.

“The videos themselves have just been amazing to see because you just connect with people and they tell what a difference it made so many years ago,” Lackey said. “One of our alumni stories was actually a child that was enrolled in our program and now is one of our employees. As she got older and older, she just kept remembering how much fun her preschool years were, and that’s what she decided to do for a career.”

Lackey said that he’s been involved with CCS for 22 years. He said it’s an outstanding program with dedicated staff sharing a passion for providing high quality care and education to students.

“I’m looking forward to the next 22 years,” Lackey said.

According to Lackey, CCS first started out of Chugiak, eventually expanding to the Valley and other areas as populations and overall demand for early childhood education increased. He said they’ve been able to add four additional facilities in the past five years, including the new Palmer facility off Bogard, near Palmer High School.

“It’s been a lot of growth, a lot of work, but totally worth it,” Lackey said.

Lackey said they’re working to increase their enrollment numbers over the summer, making a big push after making the tough but necessary decision to not enroll any new students last year because of the pandemic.

“That’s why there’s so many empty chairs,” Lackey lamented.

Lackey said there’s no deadline for enrollment, but they encourage families to sign their children up as soon as possible. He said they had huge waiting lists prior to COVID-19, and he’s sure there will be plenty of opportunities to fill those empty seats.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Lackey said. “I am confident. It’s just gonna take a lot of work over the summer,” Lackey said.

CCS Early Learning utilizes two federally based learning programs, Head Start (ages 3-5) and Early Head Start (age 3 and younger).

For more information, visit ccsalaska.org.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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