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Two generations, one school

Bennett Okello remembers riding tricycles as a child at the Helen Gordon Child Development Center in 1987, when his parents were students at Portland State. Now a PSU business student, Okello has enrolled his own 3-year-old son, Benny, at the school.

Without it, Okello and his wife, Teionna Haggard, a student at Portland Community College, could not afford the excellent care for their son that allows them to work and study without worry.

This year, the Helen Gordon center is celebrating 40 years of helping student-parents like Okello by providing low-cost care for children aged 4 months to 6 years on campus. Faculty and staff pay full market rates for the program, which attracts hundreds of visitors for tours and training each year.

The school opened after student-mothers staged a sit-in in the PSU president’s office to demand on-campus child care. It now serves 175 children a day and operates as an academic laboratory for the Graduate School of Education.

“It’s amazing to see how much it really improves kids' lives,” Okello said. “It really improved my life. It gave me a foundation as I grew older going to elementary and junior high, knowing how to be a good student, a good person.”