A teacher? A doctor? What will 4-year-old Yanizmarie Ramos grow up to be?
These are questions her mother Susana asks regularly, thanks to the family’s engagement with early childhood programs at Children’s Aid.
A mother of six from Washington Heights, Susana admits she wasn’t always as involved in her children’s success as she is today. But when Yanizmarie, her youngest, was enrolled in an Early Head Start program at nine months, Susana says she began to gain tools to help all her children chase their dreams.
Susana has watched with pride as Yanizmarie has gained independence and a love of learning. Since moving into Head Start at age 3, she has begun to receive the foundation she needs to be ready for kindergarten. She enjoys being read to or telling a story of her own using a sequence of pictures. As a result, her word recognition and ability to be attentive are growing, helping develop lifelong reading skills.
At the same time, Susana has gotten help for herself. While she always tried to be involved in her children’s education, she felt she lacked the knowledge and skills to ensure their success. She says she was intimidated to speak up for herself or her children.
That changed when Susana learned from early childhood staff how to practice essential early learning activities at home to assist in Yanizmarie’s development and reinforce what she’s learning at school. Eager to gain skills to better support her older children, Susana took the CAS-Carrera Family Life and Sexuality Education program for parents, as well as classes in nutrition, CPR and English.
“Somebody was there to give me that little push,” Susana says. “I learned how to get involved at the school and it helped a lot.”
And now, she’s helping others. Susana is president of the Parent Policy Council, a group of elected caregivers from a dozen sites with early childhood programming. Her goal is to show others that being an involved parent from early on is essential for academic success.
“Without early education,” Susana says, “all doors to success are closed.”
Their mother’s prominent role in the community brings Susana’s children pride, too. Seeing their mother at school working hard for them has inspired them to work hard for her in return.
Her wish is for each of her children to earn a college degree and pursue a meaningful career—as teachers, doctors or whatever else they want to be.