Children First Learning Center Executive Director Aubrey O’Riley grew up wanting to make a difference.
“I am inspired by children,” O’Riley told SW Illinois News. “Early childhood is my passion. Development during this time in life is incredibly fascinating. We have the ability to foster that development, helping children reach their fullest potential.”
O’Riley has been a director at the Learning Center since 2003. The childcare program started in Waterloo, which was its only location until April of this year. There are now two centers in Waterloo and one in Columbia.
Children First Learning Center Executive Director Aubrey O’Riley
“It has been an exciting adventure,” O’Riley said. “My favorite part of this job is the children. Children really do know how to live life. My ultimate goal is to continue to improve quality in our centers and provide children every opportunity possible to learn and grow in a developmentally appropriate manner.
"Another goal is to continue to find ways to provide early childhood teachers with opportunities to receive more compensation and benefits. The field of early childhood has a huge shortfall of qualified individuals.”
Besides offering a safe learning environment for families, Children First Learning Center actively seeks ways to help the community.
“The last three years we have organized a trivia night to raise money for children in our community that are in need,” O’Riley said. “Additionally, our children visit local nursing homes twice a month and participate in craft activities with the residents there.”
Helping the community is another passion for O’Riley.
“I believe that we can change the world,“ she said. “We can't do it all at once. Starting in your own community is one step along the way.”
O’Riley, who has lived all of her life in Waterloo and has a degree in business administration. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, playing with her dogs, going on vacations and camping.