Beverly Oliver, recipient of Unsung Hero, provides quality child care in the community

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For over 35 years, Beverly Oliver has provided quality child care to the community of Onondaga County, specifically the city of Lafayette.

Oliver is the founder of the After School and Early Learning Program at C. Grant Grimshaw Elementary School in Lafayette, where she works with a variety of students.

“I just want them to know that no matter what your looks are, we can get along,” Oliver said.

Oliver received one of Syracuse University’s 2022 Unsung Hero Awards, which SU gives to faculty, staff, students and community members in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and his commitment to positive change.

Oliver said her passion for childcare comes from her mother, who has worked with children all her life. Originally from Queens, Oliver worked on computers before childcare and ran a small farm with her husband. She was also a housewife.

“I never thought I would work so much with children,” she said.

The after-school program caters to school-age children attending after-school childcare at C. Grant Grimshaw Elementary. When asked how she came to establish her after-school program, Oliver said the sheer volume of “latch-key kids” during that time inspired her to open a program where parents could leave their children behind instead of leaving them after school to leave home alone.

“I spoke to my neighbor and a few others and they put me in a church and after church I got into a bigger church,” she said.

Oliver’s program continued to grow from building to building until she moved it to C. Grant Grimshaw Elementary School where she found a supportive and diverse community.

When Oliver found out she was awarded the Unsung Heroes Award, she thought it was a scam.

“I had no words when I realized it was real,” she said. “I think I cried for a long time that my community would think so much of me.”

“It’s a great community,” Oliver continued. “They treat me very, very well. When I found out these people were getting together, including my superintendent, it took my breath away.”

With the onset of the pandemic, most educational institutions ceased operations, exacerbating an already existing national childcare crisis. Oliver made the decision to keep her program open.

“I knew these parents needed her nurturing,” Oliver said.

Oliver credits the school with supporting her decision and helping her stay open. School gave her the space, rules, and resources she needed to succeed.

“I didn’t have this fear of getting COVID, of getting sick. That’s not me. I was just happy doing what I did,” Oliver said. “If the school system wasn’t so supportive, I don’t know if we could do it.”

In 2000, Oliver also brought a group of students to Albany for Afterschool Advocacy Day. A student of hers wrote an essay and was invited to the event.

“We campaigned for funds for the school program,” Oliver said. “To this day, many of the same children are still talking about that journey. It was very, very exciting.”

Colleen Cameron, professor of human development practice and family studies at Syracuse University, began occasionally volunteering for Oliver’s program after becoming familiar with it. Volunteering with Oliver gave her a stronger sense of what she is doing for the community.

“I realized that she worked with children and families as if they were her own family,” Cameron said. “I realized that this is more than just going to work every day.”

Oliver plans to retire after this year to work with Syracuse’s Light a Candle for Literacy program. She has partnered with the program in the past to bring children from her program and hers together.

“She creates a community with children from a very young age,” Cameron said. “From a developmental perspective, you can be a person in a child’s life that makes a difference.”

Contact Sarah: [email protected]

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