BAUMHOLDER, Germany -- Two Smith Child Development Center caregivers went well beyond their typical duties to earn their Child Development Associate credentials to provide considerate, dedicated service to military youngsters and their parents.

Caregivers Luz Cordero and Travis Gentry recently earned their credentials from the CDA National Credentialing Program, which provides an opportunity for caregivers of young children to exhibit their understanding, aptitude and abilities in the early childhood education field.

Although becoming credentialed required extra work, it helped Cordero improve her skills and confidence, she said.

"Since receiving my CDA, I feel like I have a stronger connection with the children," said Cordero, a Child and Youth Services caregiver for infants six weeks to 18 months. "It also allowed me to communicate better with parents, because I gained more knowledge and can discuss things with them more effectively."

To become credentialed, Cordero and Gentry reviewed several child-development resources, took exams, were observed by CDA professional development specialists and prepared professional portfolios with resources and competency statements.

"Some of the training didn't seem too difficult because it dealt with things I do every day," Cordero explained. "I felt the hardest parts were the tests. Tests are always difficult for me because I never know what to expect. But, once I read the questions, I knew from personal experience what the answers were. So, I didn't stress out."

For Travis Gentry, a former Air Force fire fighter, earning a CDA certification gave him a sense of accomplishment.

"I think the process of attaining my CDA made me better with all of the self-reflection, gathering of resources and taking in account what I'd learned," said Gentry, who worked as a Child and Youth Program assistant for 17 years. "The experience made me a better caregiver and validated what I had already been doing."

Taking care of infants is more of a joy than a job, Cordero said.

"I take care of the babies like I would take care of my own children," said Cordero, who has been a CDC caregiver for four years. "It's great when I see one of my babies who moved into another classroom, out in the community and they run over to give me a hug. They still remember me. I also have a lot of parents that leave Germany and email me pictures of how their little ones are doing -- that makes me feel like family."

From fire trucks to four year olds, Gentry said he loves what he does.
"Serving my country was an honor, but I feel that my role now is a different way to support the community," Gentry said. "Although I've been out of the military for several years, I still have a lot of love for the military, the community and especially the families."

Though he worked hard to become credentialed, Gentry said he couldn't have done it without the whole CDC team.

"This job is not about one person -- it's a team-based job. The people I work with are amazing people from all walks of life and cultures, and everyone brings something unique and awesome to the table," he said. "It's also a team between the caregivers and families, because there is a holistic approach to child development."

If you would like to become a part of the Child and Youth Services team, visit the CYS Hiring Fair from 9 a.m. to noon, May 15, at Landstuhl Youth Center (Bldg. 93812). CYS is hiring program assistants (CYPAs) for all facilities (CDCs, school-age centers and youth centers). CYPAs work directly with children and youth in classrooms. Full- and part-time positions are available and benefits include pay raises upon completion of training, college tuition assistance and opportunities for advancement. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/RheinlandPfalzFMWR or www.rheinland-pfalz.armymwr.com.