Lion cubs welcomed into Southern family with new facility


Matt Barney

University President Dr. Alan Marble cutting the ribbon at the Lion Cub Academy opening.

Susannah Schrader

The Lion Cub Academy, located at the corner of Geotz Boulevard and Newman Road, opened its doors to the children of Missouri Southern students, faculty, and staff on Wednesday, March 29. The facility, which shares its building with the Joplin Regional Center, will act as a daycare for children ranging in ages from infant to six years.

The facility was mid-construction in January when Governor Eric Greitens unexpectedly slashed the state education budget. However, even though the University’s plans for a new dental school were halted, construction was so far advanced on the new childcare center that it was completed.

Dean of the School of Education, Dr. Deborah Brown, discussed the positive occurrences happening in the School of Education, specifically referring to the teacher education program. Brown said, “I think that one of the most exciting things, probably for me, is the opening of this facility.”

“It’s taken a lot of hard work by many, many people who are in this room,” Brown continued, “too numerous to name everyone.”

In her address, Brown explained that Southern opened its first childhood development center in 1987 with the intention of giving education students hands-on experience with children, as well as experience developing curricula for future programs.

“The Lion Cub is a valuable resource for our students, for our faculty, staff, and alumni, providing developmentally appropriate instruction and care for early lifelong learners,” Brown said.

University president Dr. Alan Marble said, “You know, moving the childhood development center from its former home in the Taylor education building has been a significant undertaking.” He referred to the project as a “labor of love,” thanking the University’s physical plant, Paragon Architecture, and R.E. Smith Construction, all of whom worked on the facility.

Nikki Tappana, the director of the Lion Cub Academy and director of the former childhood development center located in Taylor, told the story of a former charge for whom she had to “think outside the box. She was an outside-the-box type of gal.” Tappana worked to reach the girl through love and art, and to this day, the now fourth-grade aged girl visits Tappana and tells her that she can’t wait to come back and be a Lion again.

Children of the Lion Cub Academy were involved in the ceremony, helping to cut the ribbon of the new facility along with Tappana, Brown, and Marble.

Interested parents may add their child’s name to the Lion Cub Academy waiting list by contacting Nikki Tappana, 417-625-3178 or 417-625-9360, or by emailing her at [email protected]