Our Story 


The Inspiration Behind UCCC

Founded in 1970 by nine community synagogues and churches, today University City Children’s Center (UCCC) reflects the founders' visionary desire to create a safe, nurturing environment where children from different socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds can learn and play together in an atmosphere that is respectful of diversity and individuality. UCCC is a 501 ( c ) (3) and opened with 28 children at Temple Shaare Emeth and was one of the very first programs to achieve accreditation with Missouri Voluntary Accreditation. 

UCCC Today

UCCC now has the capacity to serve 164 children. We have a growing reputation as a thought-leader in early childhood education and human development. Our notions of innovation and creative thinking in the classroom drive the continuous improvement of our program, evolving into the LUME Approach. We are able to serve a large group of underserved children within a highly diverse environment because of our ability to provide financial assistance to our families, and are successful because of our ability to put sound child development theory into practice.


Our vision is that all children are prepared for life. 


We partner with families of diverse backgrounds to nurture the growth and development of their children through inclusive, innovative, high quality care and education. 


University City Children’s Center is a diverse, welcoming early childhood community that respects and nurtures children and families in a culture of trust, love, empathy, compassion, and joy.

Trust. We instill in children the confidence that we will always be there for them and we strive to have this same confidence in others.  This trust allows us to enter into interdependent relationships with our school community, our partners, and our friends. 

Love.  We willingly extend ourselves for the sake of others.  We put children first and strive to understand, respect, and support all the members of our school community.

Empathy. We are intentionally sensitive to the feelings, experiences, and perspectives of children, families, and each other.  Empathy allows us to build a diverse community that is understanding of the needs of others.  

Compassion. We take action to help meet the needs of our children, our families, and each other.

Joy. We want our children to experience the wonderful and calming feeling that comes from believing that everything is going to be alright.  Joy is an essential element of an emotionally healthy life, and is established through the alternating experiences of struggle and success that begins at birth.


History of UCCC

University City Children's Center at 7745 location on Olive Blvd. 

University City Children's Center at 7745 location on Olive Blvd. 

Child playing at University City Children's Center, 1990. 

Child playing at University City Children's Center, 1990. 

1970: University City Children’s Center opens with 28 children at the educational building at Temple Shaare Emeth at 560 Trinity.

1974: UCCC moves to the Ward Building at 737 Kingsland.

1980: UCCC purchases a house at 7745 Olive Street and converts it into a home-like environment for children two years of age through kindergarten.

1985: UCCC is the second center in the state of Missouri to achieve its accreditation by the Missouri
          Board of Voluntary Accreditation of Early Childhood Programs.

1989: UCCC purchases the former 905 store located at 7733 Olive Blvd. in hopes of moving to a larger space.

1994: The building at 7733 Olive Blvd. is sold.

2000: UCCC hires a new Director, Stephen P. Zwolak.

2001: A Capital Campaign launches to finance renovation and expansion.

2002: UCCC signs agreement with Washington University.

2004: UCCC moves to newly renovated building at 6646 Vernon with a licensing capacity of 112 children; the 7745 Olive building is sold.

2005: KABOOM Playground is constructed using over 320 volunteers; enrollment reaches 100.

2006: Stephen P. Zwolak receives the national Boys Hope Girls Hope Opportunity Maker Award

2007: Licensing capacity increases to 168 children with expansion into 4 new classrooms - 2
preschool and 2 infant/toddler - a new kitchen, and an Adventure Playground. UCCC becomes a Head Start Partner. Partnership with the Belle Center provides fully inclusive education for our children and families.

2008: UCCC receives a pledge of seed money to develop a non-profit Professional Development organization, LUME Institute. McCormack Baron and Urban Strategies hire UCCC to consult on the development of an early childhood center at Murphy Park in north St Louis. Licensing variance is approved increasing capacity to 188 children. “The Mezzanine” is renovated providing 4 new administrative offices and work space for graduate students and UCCC faculty. Head Start grants UCCC additional slots, doubling the original number. UCCC completes new Infant/Toddler playground. Awarded the Deaconess Capacity Building Grant

2009: Healthy Minds for the Future first funded.

Volunteers at University City Children's Center, 2000. 

Volunteers at University City Children's Center, 2000. 

2010: Becomes Early Head Start Partner with Youth In Need.  Ann Lyons Crammond Award

2011:  Receives YOP tax credits.  Vlasic Pickle Award

2012:  Launches new logo and branding. Elizabeth Abernathy Hull Award

2013: Introduces UCCC Mirroring Curriculum.    What's Right with the Region Award 

2014: Installs Solar Panels through partnership with Washington University, a  Trike Track with lanes and painted road signs on the Adventure Playground, and an Herb Garden on the Infant/Toddler Playground. YWCA Volunteer Childcare Partner of the Year Award.

2015: University City Children’s Center and Steve Zwolak, as CEO of LUME Institute, receives the Educational Achievement Award from The American Psychoanalytic Association.  


Licensing and Accreditation

UCCC is licensed by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Section for Child Care Regulation.

We are accredited by the Missouri Accreditation of Programs for Children & Youth. Missouri Accreditation of Programs for Children & Youth focuses on qualitative aspects of the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth opportunities made available to children.