Richard Hulefeld knows early childhood is critical in shaping a person’s future. And for almost 30 years, he’s been doing something about it.
The 1978 graduate was headed for life as a career diplomat. But in 1974, with degrees from Georgetown University and the University of Chicago in hand, he detoured to Xavier, where he picked up a master’s degree in education. In 1979, he and his wife were asked to take over a failing day-care center in nearby Covington, Ky., across the street from the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. Even though he had no experience in the field, Hulefeld agreed. He renamed the center Children Inc., and set to work.
Since then, Children Inc., has grown into the region’s largest provider of nationally accredited, three-star child care, serving about 3,300 children a day through such services as nine early childhood centers, 100 family childcare homes, after-school care in 51 elementary schools, 75 school-age programs and a home visitation program for first-time, high-risk mothers. Children Inc.’s, most recent projects include educational CDs, a learning research project done in conjunction with the University of Louisville and—owing directly to his Xavier experience—service learning projects. Last year, 9,000 Northern Kentucky schoolchildren completed service learning projects designed to tie directly to Kentucky’s state learning standards. This year’s goal is 12,000 participants, and Hulefeld hopes for 25,000 by 2015.
“It’s based on a very simple belief that every child has something to give back, and that when adults give children a chance to give back year after year after year, they’re much more likely to become adults who will make a difference.”