a child center here
launch a college in India
thats Alice for you!
Lal in 1975 at first LAMC child development center.
Lal remembers that day in 1975 as if it were yesterday.
She had been appointed director of the child development center
at the brand new Mission College and her first task was to
find a site for the center. The college didnt have a
campus then. For two days, she looked at many sites throughout
the northeast Valley without any luck.
"I was so frustrated," she recalled. "On the
third day I prayed to God and said, Please let me find
a place today." At 4th and Maclay, her car sputtered
then "died" in front of a building. As she
walked around looking for an open door and a phone, Alice
realized the place was perfect for a child center. She later
learned that the building was about to be placed on a lease
"I couldnt believe it the perfect building,"
she said. "And, you know, the funny thing? When I went
out to my car, it started right away!"
The way Alice figured it, if that wasnt a sign from
above then such signs dont exist.
Twenty-nine years later and after caring for about 900 children,
Alice has retired as director of the Campus Child Development
Center, the only director the center has ever known. Although
she began her career as a nurse and has taught classes at
Mission College in child development and psychology, all of
her 49-year career as an educator has been spent in early
childhood development centers. Two accomplishments give her
the greatest satisfaction. One involves the many times her
expertise allowed her to identify disabilities in children
that even their parents were unaware of. She recalled one
child who was hard of hearing; another who was blind in one
eye. Alice was able to work with the parents to get the children
the special help they needed.
She also boasts of her role in helping to extend child center
hours into the evening. Mission was the first college in the
district to offer an evening child care program.
Lal chats with children at the Campus Child Development
made me proud, to be part of something that recognized that
evening students have the same rights and needs as day students,"
Indeed, when it comes to childcare, its very personal
for Alice Lal. As a young émigré from India,
Lal was a single mother in a new country who needed to work.
When she couldnt find affordable childcare, she made
the bold but heartbreaking decision to send her 15-month-old
daughter back to India, where Alices mother could care
was a traumatic, painful experience for me," she said
of the 10-month separation. "I cried almost every day
until I got my child back. But thats why I went into
when a mother comes to Alice, crying about a problem related
to her child and Alice hugs her, its not an empty gesture.
Alice has been there. "Ive had so many parents
cry on my shoulder. If I can help them in any way, I do. Ive
even given some of them money, if thats what they needed."
After nearly 50 years in education, youd think she was
ready for a rest. Not so. She has long desired to share her
knowledge and experience with her native countrymen. This
week, she returns to India to help start a junior college
in Kominapalli, near Hyderabad. She will help develop curriculum,
hopes to establish an on-line connection between that school
and Mission College
and shes even helping the architects
plan the school.
"My life has been so full and gratifying that the only
thing left for me to do is to go back to India and complete
what Ive always wanted to do," she said.
Alice Lals many friends at Mission College and in the
community plan a recognition event for her when she returns
from India in the spring.
BY EDUARDO PARDO
(top) Courtesy of Alice Lal; (bottom) Lydia Chung