Water Lily Learning Center sits on the corner of Liberty Street and Manfield Street, with a brightly decorated fence and colorful playground. The hallways are cheerful and covered with fun projects, the classrooms have big bright windows that overlook the Cincinnati skyline, and giggles echo throughout the building.

The friendly, clean environment is part of the reason Brittany Robertson chose to enroll her now-3-year-old daughter when she was five months old.

“Water Lily is real secure and real clean,” she said. “When I looked for a day care, I looked for a friendly environment and cleanliness. I put (my daughter) there and I’ve loved it ever since.”

But more importantly, Brittany loved director Garri Davis and the staff.

“When you drop your kids off, you want them to be around people who are happy to see them,” Brittany said. “That’s how it is at Water Lily. Not only is (Garri) friendly, but she’s dedicated. I’ve seen her at center from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and then back at the center the next morning at 6 a.m. Miss Garri isn’t doing it for the money. She has a passion for kids, and that’s what you need when you are working to provide for your family. It’s a great thing not to worry.”

For Garri, who started Water Lily five years ago, it’s more than passion and dedication.

“I’ve always wanted a childcare center,” she said with a smile. “It’s a calling.”

Planting seeds and inspiring brilliance

Water Lily is a four-star rated, Cincinnati Preschool Promise-approved, community-based preschool. The staff supports children from six weeks through preschool and also offers an after-school program for school-aged children.

The center’s goal is to plant seeds and inspire brilliance, just as its tagline suggests.

“Children need a place to go that’s clean, where people care about them, and where they can do their very best,” Garri said. “That’s what we aim to provide. Then, when they transition to kindergarten and on to school, they’re ready to flourish and succeed.”

To support local families, Water Lily offers quality early childhood education with well-trained, experienced teachers, a positive, safe environment, and highly regarded “Creative Curriculum.” But the childcare center offers even more opportunities for students, bringing in community partners to offer extracurricular activities and wraparound services at no additional cost to families. This includes weekly Spanish and soccer lessons, field trips, nutritious meals and tuition support through Cincinnati Preschool Promise (CPP).

“Garri told me about (CPP) and said it would help with tuition,” Brittany said. “I filled out the form, and it was very easy. (CPP) helps support tuition to put my daughter in school.”

With all these offerings, Water Lily focuses on supporting students and families in the best ways.

“We want to have a whole, complete package for our students to have a good experience,” Garri said.

This “complete package” also means Water Lily strives to ensure every student is above and beyond prepared for kindergarten.

“Kindergartners need to learn to count to 20, so our kids learn to count to 100,” she said. “Kindergartners need to recognize ABCs and lower and uppercase letters, so our students learn those and some sight words.”

This early learning experience will make a crucial difference for students when they move on to kindergarten and beyond. Research shows that students in quality preschool are more likely to enter kindergarten ready to learn, read by third grade, graduate from high school and thrive in college and life.

“It is the best decision you can make for your child and their education needs,” Brittany said. “Education starts early, and if you get them learning early, it will help them later in life.”

So, that’s exactly what Water Lily tries to do.

“Here, we sprinkle them with positivity and structure and good knowledge,” Garri said. “That will be something, once they move on to kindergarten, that they carry on with them forever.”