From left: Tracy Belcastro, executive director of Strive Niagara, Margaret Jarrell, past executive director, Zach Dadson, president and chair, Robyn Veldman, registered early childhood educator supervisor, and Satinder Klair, director of children’s services for Niagara Region, celebrate the opening of the Margaret Jarrell Centre. - Strive Niagara photo

New child-care centre in Grimsby will help young families strive to be their best

May 12, 2023

Main Street East facility is Strive Niagara’s 1st in Niagara’s west end


By Abby Green Grimsby Lincoln News
Friday, May 12, 2023
2 min to read

A new facility in Grimsby is striving to help families with child care.

Located at 118 Main St. E. in Grimsby, a new child-care centre by Strive Niagara marks its growth into Niagara’s west end.

The ribbon cutting for the new Margaret Jarrell Centre took place on May 11, with members of the community, and the board, in attendance.

Strive Niagara is a program that helps adolescent parents finish school. It does this by supporting the parents in any way it can, including helping them co-ordinate child care.

Tracy Belcastro, Strive Niagara’s executive director, explained that they have sites in Welland and St. Catharines, and a partnership program in Niagara Falls.

But when they saw the opportunity to expand westward, they had to take it.

“We have an EarlyON centre in Grimsby, but not licensed child care,” she said, explaining that the centre will mostly be used for working families for now, and will expand to include young families.

As of now, Belcastro said they’re already at capacity. While that could change in September as kids go back to school, Belcastro said in general Niagara needs more child-care options.

“We need more child-care spots in Niagara, for sure,” she said. “There are large wait-lists for all programs.”

The secret to Strive’s child care, she said, is that it works with whole families and not just the children.

“We pride ourselves on quality child care and building great relationships with the families,” Belcastro said. “So we don’t just look at it as the children, but we look at it holistically where we encompass the whole family. So in other words, we believe in parent engagement, so in order to support the child properly, we have to have that relationship with parents so we know what’s going on with the child.”

The new centre is named after Margaret Jarrell, Strive’s founder.

In the ’80s, Jarrell was the affirmative action employment equity co-ordinator for what was then known as the Lincoln County Board of Education. In 1989, she read a report called “Teenagers Becoming Parents: A Niagara Perspective.”

“That report said that teenage mothers were unable to access child care, so they were living alone in poverty and they were not going to finish school,” she recalled. “Their children would enter school alone, lagging already by like a year and a half in social development. And there was lots of data about women who had previously been through these circumstances, and had a very fragile relationship with the workforce, because of their low educational skill level, and so condemning the two of them to life of poverty.”

With her team, Jarrell advocated to start what is now known as Strive, to assist these young mothers and break the cycle.

“People can avoid pregnancy, but if you grow up in domestic violence, if you have a role model of young parenting, then there’s lots of circumstances, and about 50 per cent of them would have grown up in very chaotic environments that made it hard to learn,” she said. “They felt they couldn’t do school, and their only option was to become a mother and they chose to be a mother without understanding the full implications of that decision.”

Over the years, Jarrell remembers seeing the women who went through Strive’s program succeed.

She recalled a 16-year-old girl who entered the program with only two high school credits. She was able to graduate high school, attend post secondary, become a professor herself, and eventually the child she had when she was a teen was given a full scholarship to university.

“I just think that people should know that if you’re feeling a little bit judgmental about the circumstances someone finds themselves in, overcome that and make yourself a better person by providing support or reaching your own hand out to help,” she said.

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