Twenty years ago, in the Eye On Business column on page 17 of our September 2002 FishHawk edition, the Osprey Observer published news about Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academy of Valrico breaking ground later that month, later opening around July 2003. Franchisee co-owners Ben Fernandes and Keith Balot created the academy because they saw a need for quality child care and early education. They later opened a Lithia location in 2011.
“When we opened up the school, there was absolutely nothing in the Valrico area as far as child care on a big scale like we have,” said Fernandes, adding, “It was a very big investment on our part, we definitely took a risk, and it’s been extremely successful.”
Franchising with Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academies came with its rich curriculum and training for all the staff to ensure they were teaching the curriculum properly, Fernandes said, who added it also started with good security measures and a camera system so parents could check on their children. Plus, the academy is accredited through APPLE and NAEYC.
Nowadays, it also has programs like the Brain Waves®, STEAM Ahead® and ABCmouse®, among others, to foster high-quality early learning. Fernandes believes what makes Kids ‘R’ Kids special is its principle, “Hug First, Then Teach,” and its philosophy of children learning through playing.
Kids ‘R’ Kids of Valrico has reached max capacity for 10-15 years and educated thousands of children, graduated thousands through its VPK program and employed over 50 staff in its lifetime. Several graduates are employed, like local 17-year-old Troy Gilmore. Currently, it has almost 200 kids and over 25 staff, but students may still enroll, and staff positions are available.
It has been going strong since opening, even staying in operation during the pandemic to give kids an education and provide staff and faculty employment, though of course diminished in numbers. In addition, it has been working with Hair We Share for the past five years; helping local elementaries; and affiliating with The Grow Group, which helps those with learning disabilities gain meaningful employment.
The academy has held this spirit of community support since day one and will continue to help, especially with giving young children a good first step in their education.
Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academy of Valrico is located at 4321 Lynx Paw Trl. in Valrico. For more information, visit https://kidsrkids.com/valrico/ or call 813-657-4200.
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