Single mother Fame Varona has taken matters into her own hands.
With an ambitious seven-year-old daughter keen to take extra-curricular classes in singing, dancing and acting, Ms Varona realised she would not be able to afford the approximate $1,000 it would cost to supply her daughter with all of the classes she wanted.
The answer: Tomorrow’s Child Academy, Ms Varona’s new business that will offer childcare and a non-academic curriculum to children from ages two to 12.
Operating out of King’s Sports Centre, Ms Varona explained that the centre will offer two curriculum choices: singing, dancing and acting or sports, arts and crafts and computers.
‘That way we can appeal to everyone,’ she said. ‘Not everyone is interested in the same thing. Sometimes girls are interested in singing and dancing and boys in sports and computers, or vice versa.’
The programme, which will launch Monday, 4 May, will fill what Ms Varona feels is a gaping hole in the local childcare market.
‘Growing up here the National Cultural Foundation was very strong, and they had a lot of things for kids to do at that time,’ said Ms Varona. ‘Over the years we don’t have anything along those lines as far as the children are concerned. It’s time to start.’
The academy will provide one and a half hours of curriculum teaching a day but will also ensure that the children’s homework is completed and will provide them each with a snack. The sessions will run from 3.30pm to 6pm daily.
‘We have a very big space at King’s and we have access to all the amenities around it, including the dance studio, skating rink and so on,’ said Ms Varona. ‘We also will have a drop-in programme in place for the gym and people can purchase discounted gym memberships when they are enrolling their children in the Academy, so they can work out while their kids are in the sessions.’
Ms Varona’s mother, a former vice-principal of the Lighthouse School and a teacher for more than 30 years, will be overseeing the instruction at the Academy, but she is currently still looking to hire part-time and full-time instructors for each of the curriculum specialties, as well as a childcare specialist.
‘I am trying to encourage Caymanians so we can showcase our local talent but of course I don’t discriminate – whoever is best for the job,’ said Ms Varona. ‘However, I have in mind a few Caymanian dance instructors right now, there is a lot of local talent.’
Although she will be staying firmly on the business side of things for now, Ms Varona herself has a background in dance teaching.
‘I’ve danced for the last 15 years and I put myself through college by teaching kids and adults how to dance, from hip hop to jazz and salsa,’ she said.
An important aspect of the curriculum at the Academy, Ms Varona believes, is the volunteerism that the Academy will encourage.
‘What I want to do is give the kids exposure,’ she said. ‘I used to volunteer myself quite often. I loved it and it became a part of me. I think that’s what we need to instil in our children, to be more a part of the community.’
Another goal of the Academy is to develop a dance group and theatre group outside of the daily sessions who could volunteer by performing at the Pines or in fundraisers, for example.
‘For people who are interested, they can become a part of these groups. Those kids can start up a production company and go out there volunteering and hopefully by the end of the year we could book these kids for different little things,’ added Ms Varona.
Another idea on the horizon would be a film initiative for the summer for children aged 12 and older.
‘The group of kids taking part would be competing – the kids would record their own TV show, for example, learn how to produce it from start to finish and they would be aired on local television,’ said Ms Varona, adding that that specific initiative is dependent on sponsorship.
Her ideas are based on the talent that she has recognised within the Caymanian community.
‘We have the local talent and they want to do something, but there’s just nothing here to do. There are so many private programmes in the US and elsewhere in the Caribbean and we’re just not doing anything at all here,’ Ms Varona said.
If anyone is interested in applying for employment with the Academy or enrolling their children in it, please contact Ms Varona at 328-8404.
Photo: Anna Wootton
If your child wants to dance instead of study, Fame Varona has the answer.