news-article - Coastal Carolina University
In This Section

‘Labor of love’: CCU celebrates grand opening of childhood development center

October 12, 2018
Members of the Shelley Family at the ribbon cutting of the Early Childhood Development and Literacy Center and the Peggy S. Shelley Early Childhood Lab School on Oct. 11.Children who attend the childhood development center at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 11.President DeCenzo, Angela Huggins, members of the Shelley family and Provost Byington cut the ribbon.

It was a dream come true inside Kingston Hall at Coastal Carolina University on Thursday afternoon as the ribbon was cut on the Early Childhood Development and Literacy Center and the Peggy S. Shelley Early Childhood Lab School.

President David A. DeCenzo said during his remarks at the event that there has been a need for such a center at CCU for many years, and it took many individuals to make it a reality, citing the efforts of Provost and Executive Vice President Ralph Byington as leading the charge and being “the hero of the day.”

Byington said the center wasn’t his idea, but he knew it was something that was needed.

“Research shows that 4 million student parents are enrolled in universities,” he said. “We know that at least 375 students at CCU have children between the ages of 3 and 5, and there are plenty of faculty and staff with children between those ages, as well. So this was a real need, and it became a true labor of love to make it happen.”

Edward Jadallah, dean of CCU’s Spadoni College of Education, said the center creates educational building blocks for lifelong learning, and the children enrolled in the center have unique learning opportunities. The center is a dual-language environment, utilizing both English and Spanish, and the teachers use a project-based curriculum that incorporates state standards with the interests and curiosity of the children themselves.

“They take field trips across campus,” Jadallah said. “They experience art, music and science firsthand. They have an outdoor classroom, because even play, when purposefully designed, leads to important learning experiences.”

The center is located inside the renovated Kingston Hall on CCU’s main Conway campus, and includes five literacy rooms, four classrooms and an outdoor playground. Up to 120 children between the ages of 3 and 5 can be accepted into the center, which offers enrollment options for school day, after school, or a full day. The center accepts applications for enrollment from CCU students, faculty and staff, as well as from the community.

The center and lab school also provide an environment that furthers a rich research agenda for faculty and students, Jadallah said. The classrooms are equipped with cameras and sound systems so CCU’s early education undergraduate students can learn and study education processes in ways that make sense to this specific age group. The classrooms are used for clinical experiences for undergraduates and graduate students, while at the same time providing more individualized instruction for the children.

Angela Huggins, Ph.D., is the director of the center, coming to CCU this year after a 26-year career as a childhood education professional. She is a CCU alumna and a native of North Myrtle Beach, serving as a kindergarten teacher and as a principal. She earned her Ph.D. in educational leadership from Capella University.

“I couldn’t think of anything that I’d rather do,” Huggins said. “It’s a perfect balance of working with young children and helping pre-service teachers and others in the community learn more about how children learn.”

The center opened in August, and the children have spent the past two months on various topics, such as a study of apples that uses all five of their senses, and following the migration patterns of Monarch butterflies across the campus.

Members of the Shelley family were also at the event, and Jadallah said that Peggy Shelley felt strongly that reading was a basic art that everyone should master.

“The Shelley family supports CCU because it is a great asset, it adds a necessary component of diversity to this area,” Jadallah said. “The stimulating university environment makes our area a shining light in this state, and they believe in promoting the learning process.”

For more information about the Childhood Development and Literacy Center, visit

Additional resources:

Twitter: @spadonicollege

Instagram: @ccu_ecdc

Horry County native, CCU alumna and longtime teacher returns as director of new child care center

Spadoni College of Education receives financial support for its early childhood lab school