UAF-Fort Wainwright Deal Boosts Child Care, Early Childhood Education Degree-seekers

May 4, 2021

An agreement between the University of Alaska Fairbanks’s Community and Technical College and Fort Wainwright will improve child and youth services for soldiers’ families and help their spouses earn college credit for an Early Childhood Education degree.


The agreement signed Friday by representatives of Fort Wainwright and UAF’s Community and Technical College will directly benefit the spouses of soldiers assigned to the Interior’s two Army installations who want to earn a degree in Early Childhood Education.

Patty Meritt, an Early Childhood Education professor and program adviser with UAF's Community and Technical College, explains the benefits of the agreement while Garrison Commander Col. Christopher Ruga lists those benefits.
Credit Brian Schlumbohm/Fort Wainwright Public Affairs Office

“It’s part of our continuing effort for us to improve the community education and employment opportunities for our employees,” said Garrison Commander Col. Christopher Ruga, “as well as continue improve the quality of life for the soldiers, families and civilians here at U.S. Army Garrison, and throughout the Fairbanks North Star Borough area.”

Ruga says the agreement will enable military spouses to get 13 credits towards an Early Childhood Education degree from the CTC after they complete Child and Youth Services training at Fort Wainwright or Fort Greely.

“It helps us meet our staffing goals, as we are able to recruit new employees,” he said, “and with additional incentives of educational opportunities, as well as helping the Fairbanks community improve their childcare capabilities.”

It’s often difficult for a spouse to get a good job when a servicemember transfers to a new location, especially during an economic slump like Alaska is experiencing. But good child care is in demand everywhere, and a CTC faculty member says the college’s nationally accredited program can help spouses develop a career in the field.

“It encourages spouses, and it means that more employees can come to work in Children and Youth Services,” says Patty Meritt, an Early Childhood Education professor and program adviser at the university. “And I think as spouses get more training, it creates more slots for families.”

Nicole Cole grew up in a military family and participated in Child and Youth Services activities and later became a trainer for others who want to work at Fort Wainwright's CYS facility.
Credit Fort Wainwright/Facebook

The agreement signed during Friday’s signing ceremony on Fort Wainwright formalizes a program that’s been under way for four years. One of those at the event was Nicole Cole, who grew up in a military family and participated in many Child and Youth Services, or CYS, activities while growing up.

She says that’s what made her decide 18 years ago to learn more about early childhood education through instructional modules offered by CYS.

“And then today, 18 years later, using the course and all the benefits from this, I fulfilled by dream and I became a trainer,” Cole said.

Meritt says the deal will help spouses complete an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education more quickly. And she says it’ll benefit the university by boosting overall enrollment.

“From the university perspective, this is just wonderful community involvement,” she said. “And a partnership with the military here is absolutely critical.”