In Alberta’s uncertain economy, a business that has survived the past decade is something to celebrate, and one that has grown 700 per cent to become one of the city’s top 10 companies for growth is exceptional. Summit Kids is just that: exceptional. Since Nancy Klensch started her childcare business in 2009, it has redefined the industry in Calgary, from the quality of the programming to the dedication of the career staff to its commitment to accommodating the diverse needs of today’s families. Summit Kids has grown from 37 children the first year to its current enrolment of around 1,000 children in its daycare, before- and after-school programs and private kindergarten. Summit Kids is revolutionizing childcare and creating an environment where both children and parents can thrive.
“We’re not a traditional daycare. Sure, colours and toys and play is important but we’re more than that. We’re trying to find the things that are missing in our communities today and round out these children with new experiences and new skills,” says Tyler Alton, chief operating officer and co-owner of Summit Kids.
By providing an engaging, holistic, child-centric approach to childcare led by a diverse group of highly-trained and educated instructors, Summit Kids is turning the childcare industry on its ear. These programs are challenging kids from 12 months to 12 years old by connecting them to fellow Summit Kids as well as their wider community, exposing them to a huge number of activities, and encouraging them to find and pursue their passions. The private kindergarten follows the Alberta curriculum but goes far beyond what traditional schools can offer given Summit’s 10:1 ratio and the full day of dynamic learning potential available for students.
The kids across the Summit programs learn life skills like cooking and sewing on top of performing arts, photography, rock wall climbing and a wide range of unique activities that vary from location to location depending on the staff. While there is foundational programming that is consistent across all 19 locations in Calgary, Cochrane and Chestermere, the curriculum is really the people who work there. The idea is that employees introduce the things they are passionate about, whether that’s drawing or science or performing arts, and the kids get drawn into their excitement about the subject becoming inspired by them too.
“Gardening, singing or knitting or whatever their passion is, we want staff to bring it in because the byproduct is a leader, teacher, mentor who is engaged and fired up and wanting to be there and sharing what means so much to them with these children. The kids feel that. They get that level of investment,” says owner Nancy Klensch.
And for Summit’s founder, it has always been about investing in kids, the community and finding a better way to care for children while their parents work. Parents need childcare but Summit Kids has shifted the narrative from it being a necessary evil to being a choice to have their children in this positive, stimulating, fun environment. For many families, there has traditionally been a sense of guilt associated with childcare, but Klensch and her talented team have replaced that with one of pride; Summit families are thrilled and proud their children get to have these early learning experiences and to build foundations that will serve them in school and beyond.
The programming and enriched learning found at Summit Kids is unparalleled, but what truly sets the company apart from the competition is recognizing that many jobs aren’t traditional so childcare support can’t be either. Most Summit Kids locations operate from 7:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. while the Riverview Daycare location is open seven days a week until 11:00 p.m. to accommodate parents working shifts or unconventional jobs.
“For shift-working parents, come the weekend kids are shuffled from one place to the next. Instead, we can be that constant in their lives. We believe you raise healthy, confident children by giving them a predictable, stable environment,” says Klensch.
It also gives them a sense of community. The Riverview location is one of the first to bring together the youngest and eldest members of society with a daycare facility at Bethany Care Society’s dementia care centre. It will serve to reintegrate the ages to benefit both groups. For 10 years, Summit Kids has seen the benefits, as happy, passionate, considerate children come out of its programs with the confidence to take on the outside world.
“We’ve created an environment for children to thrive on their own terms,” she says. “For 10 years, we’ve been figuring out what we’re doing, and now we’re just getting started.”