At her first job, Marilyn Scorby faced the ultimate yet unexpected test -- a test that may have launched her career.
When Scorby was 18 she had just accepted a part-time job with the Merced County Office of Education working with young children.
A young boy came up to her while she was talking to a nurse. He tried to get her attention.
"He tugged on my pants and said, 'Teacher, teacher, teacher,'" she recalled. "The little boy threw up on my feet -- and I didn't flinch."
Never miss a local story.
She then took the boy the bathroom and cleaned him off.
"I was offered a full-time job after that," she said. "The nurse had a vested interest in kids and she strongly recommended I get hired. I've been building on that ever since."
Scorby is the program director of the Merced College Child Development Center, a position she's held since 1998.
This year the center was named a demonstration site for the state because of what it does with infants and toddlers by the Program for Infant and Toddler Care, done in collaboration with the California Department of Education.
"Scorby has done a great job in getting our center approved by a variety of agencies and getting grants such as dental and medical checkups ups for kids," said Marianne Tortorici, Merced College's vice president of instruction.
All children at the center get a variety of health screenings.
A few years ago, the center was recognized as one of the top 10 child care centers in the state by First 5, a statewide commission that strives to improve the lives of families with children under 5 years old through a number of services.
The center serves about 130 children aged infant to 5.
All the parents who send their children to the center get some sort of child care subsidy, and all are also Merced College students. "For a high number of students we are instrumental in keeping them in school," she said.
Before working at the center, Scorby worked at Migrant Education Head Start for the Merced County Office of Education for 18 years. She scaled her way up the ranks until she became education coordinator.
When Scorby took the job at Merced College, the center only served 20 to 40 children.
A few years later, the center got the money to build a new center and then expanded the number of children to more than 100.
Ben Duran, Merced College president, said he met Scorby 30 years ago when she worked as a teacher for migrant education.
"She has been recognized as one of the top child development specialists," she said. "She has made (the Child Development Center) one of the best in the state and it's reflected in the care she gives to children."
On Friday, Scorby proudly walked the halls of the nearly 10-year-old facility. This is one of the few child development centers in the state that was built especially for children, she said.
In each classroom, early childhood education students and teachers work closely with children and help them explore their environment.
The classrooms are divided into various play stations. Play is the job of children, she explained.
As Scorby walked into each classroom, it was obvious she loves her job. "Every time I come in here I think I just hang here all day," she said.
She spotted a 5-year-old boy scribbling on a piece of paper and complimented him on his progress. The boy was involved in a complex make-believe game with a few other children, where he was pretending to order at a pizzeria and they made pizzas or pretended to be customers.
The sheet of paper he wrote on was filled with shapes, some resembling letters.
"By the end of the year that boy will be comfortable with print and writing," she said.
That was his way of getting acquainted with the material they are taught, she said.
Since Scorby is in an administrative position, she doesn't get to interact with children as much as she did when she was a teacher, so each day she makes a point to visit classrooms.
"Children keep you in the moment of the joy of discovery and learning," she said. "It's not a profound thing, but it's what recharges my battery every day."
In her years of experience, Scorby has watched people's understanding of children evolve, and much of that comes from understanding their brain development.
"(Centers) were once called day care, then child care centers and now early care and education centers," she said. "Children know their work is play. The more we learn about that as professionals, the better we able to offer higher quality learning environments."
And to think it all started with a test deposited on her shoes.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.