By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart
Life has indeed come full circle for Nichole McMillen. In 2009, when McMillen transferred to SUNY Broome to study Early Childhood: A.A.S., she never imagined that one day she would return to campus to assume the position of Director of the B.C. Center, SUNY Broome’s onsite licensed Center for child care and early education. McMillen has big dreams for the Center that cares for and educates her alma mater’s 40 littlest learners, a class that includes her youngest daughter, Colette. Together with the B.C. The Center’s talented and compassionate staff of teachers, McMillen, will usher the B.C. Center to its next and greatest chapter.
Born and raised in Brackney, PA, McMillen always considered the Southern Tier to be her local community, even though it was technically beyond the borders of Pennsylvania.
When it came time for college, Nichole settled on Mansfield University, her closest in-state option, at just over an hour and a half commute from her home. McMillen’s inherent work ethic reinforced her plan to balance being a full-time college student with being a full-time member of the workforce. When job opportunities in the community of Mansfield were scarce, McMillen headed home to Brackney and transferred to the community college in her backyard, SUNY Broome, where she enrolled in the Early Childhood: A.A.S program.
Nichole graduated from SUNY Broome and transferred to Binghamton University to study human development while working a full-time, third-shift position at Frito-Lay. While she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do professionally with her degree combination of early childhood education and human development, McMillen knew that she wanted to devote her life to supporting the family structure.
“I bounced back and forth between wanting to work in family services as a social worker and as a marriage and family counselor,” McMillen said. “Of all of my potential career paths, the one that I considered the least was working directly in early childhood education and care.”
That all changed during Nicole’s final year at Binghamton University when she noticed a posting for a full-time toddler teacher position at the Jewish Community Center, or JCC, of Binghamton. McMillen had to admit that the timing and logistics of the position couldn’t have been better. The JCC was just three minutes from campus and was the ideal opportunity to gain industry experience.
McMillen’s Early Childhood: A.A.S. degree, coupled with her proven work ethic, made her a shoo-in for the role. But before she accepted, Nichole negotiated a condition that she would serve as a toddler teacher only if she could also have an internship with the JCC’s administrative team. The JCC happily agreed, and McMillen spent her last year of college bouncing between taking classes at Binghamton University, teaching a developmentally enriching class for two-year-olds at the JCC, and learning about the unique balance of management and mentorship that is required to lead the day-to-day operations of an early childhood center.
Nichole found a home at the JCC and dedicated the following ten-plus years of her life to designing curriculum, overseeing daily activities, and, in her words, “embracing the magic of the early childhood years.”
“The beauty of working in a childhood center is that when hard moments would inevitably present themselves, I could walk out of my office, pop into a classroom, and immediately have a happier and brighter day,” McMillen shared. “My purpose – the children – is always surrounding me.”
McMillen did not intend to leave her beloved JCC, but when a friend mentioned in passing that the B.C. Center was searching for a new director, Nichole was intrigued by the opportunity to lend her skills, passion, and expertise to the childcare center at her alma mater. A lover of challenges, McMillen took note of the B.C. Center’s achievable obstacles and wholeheartedly appreciated its intrinsic value to the community. McMillen officially joined the B.C. Center’s team as its Director in October 2023.
“Right now, I am in the listening and observing stage and am taking the lead from the Center’s teachers. The teachers make the Center,” McMillen said. “The director is there to support them and to help navigate and build the vision for the care and education that we lovingly provide. I have big dreams for the B.C. Center and can’t wait to see them through!”
Did Nichole’s story inspire you to explore the rewarding field of early childhood education? To learn more about the Early Childhood: A.A.S program at SUNY Broome, please contact SUNY Broome’s Admissions Office at 607-778-5001.
Nichole McMillen’s Tips for Selecting a Childcare Center
- Select a program that participates in QUALITYstarsNY.
- Select a program that is licensed through OCFS.
- Select a program that offers an “Open Door Policy” that allows you to take an active part in the classroom experience.