SANTA MARIA, Calif. - There's a new sign and a new name on the Allan Hancock College campus.
"Now we are the Orfalea Children's Center Lab School at Allan Hancock College," said Yvon Frazier, children's center program director.
Since it was established in 1976, the school, was known simply as the Children's Center Lab School. The change, which was officially dedicated at a ceremony in the center's outdoor area, recognizes the Orfalea Foundation, which has awarded the center more than $1 million in two grants.
"This is a memorable day because we are ensuring that the Orfalea's legacy and vision live on at Hancock and our community for years to come," said Allan Hancock College Superintendent/President Kevin G. Walthers.
The Orfalea Foundation first awarded a grant to the center in 2013. Late last year, the foundation awarded a second grant totaling $785,000.
"To be associated with children is a tremendous honor, I can't think of a better honor than doing something with children," said foundation co-founder Paul Orfalea.
The center includes more than 100 children, which range in age three months to five years old. Orfalea has made it a point to invest in them.
"It's such a formative time in childhood that I don't even think we realize how important the first six months, let alone the first five years," said Orfalea.
Previous grant money has been used to establish a healthy eating imitative, swimming lessons, plus the creation of an immersive outdoor experience.
"Our newest grant will go to providing expansion opportunities for our preschool outdoor classroom yard," said Frazier.
Plans include a secret garden, full-body emersion mud pit, tree stump walk way, cabana, willow playhouse and log houses.
"I see everyday how much of an impact the Orfalea Foundation has and will continue to have with our programs," said Frazier. "I can't say enough how truly amazing it is that the Orfalea Foundation saw something special in our program to award us not just one, but multiple grants."
The children's center not only benefits the kids that go there, but also their parents who attend Hancock, and faculty members who also have kids at the center. It's also a valuable resource for students enrolled in the college's Early Childhood Studies program.
"Having experience with an outdoor classroom is actually something that preschools and other schools will look for on resumes, so this whole year me teaching here is giving me that experience," said student Madison Alexander.
During the ceremony, a new brightly-colored sign featuring the center's existing logo and the center's new name was unveiled. The sign will be permanently displayed at the center in the near future.