Zeporah Askia is the proud parent of 3-year-old Elijah or “Eli,” a student at Educare Chicago, Start Early’s (formerly known as the Ounce) early childhood school that serves low-income infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families in Chicago’s Grand Boulevard neighborhood.
Zeporah is a single mother who is currently studying to take the Illinois bar exam. Her son, Eli, began attending Educare Chicago when he was an infant and while Zeporah was attending law school and working a part-time job. When Eli was diagnosed with developmental delays and needed the help of a speech pathologist and other educational resources, the Educare staff stepped in to make sure Eli had all the resources he needed.
Zeporah is one of Educare Chicago’s biggest advocates and attributes her son’s outstanding progress to the educational opportunities at Educare and the resources they help provide during their families most difficult times.
Recently, we sat down with Zeporah to learn more about her story and how her family has been impacted by access to the early childhood education program at Educare Chicago.
- How and why did you seek out the Educare Chicago program?
I was referred to Educare Chicago by a friend who has a child in the center. Before Eli was enrolled in the center, I struggled to find a quality program who would give him the tools needed to be successful in life. Yes, my son was only a year old and I was concerned about his future. E ducation is important to my family because I overcame stereotypes associated with my socioeconomic status, race, and gender by attaining a quality education. Education has opened so many doors for my family that I wanted to pass this value onto my son. Further, I understood that Eli would be the person that he was going to be by the age of 5, so I needed to act early to instill a love of education.
I immediately knew that I wanted my son in Educare. When I toured the school, the staff told me about the various components of his curriculum, the classrooms were well-equipped with everything I could imagine, and the staff was friendly. After he was enrolled, and I could not stop talking about Educare, my family did not believe that a daycare had a curriculum. So, I quickly corrected them, Educare is not a daycare, it’s a school.
- How has taking part in an early childhood education program impacted you and your family?
Two years later, I stand by my decision that Educare was the best place for my son. Educare has had a profound effect on my child’s academic, emotional, and social development. In addition, the support systems have strengthened my family and helped us to reach success. Specifically, when Eli came to Educare, I had completed my first year of law school, but I had taken time off from school because I struggled to find the necessary support systems. I was giving up on my dream of becoming an attorney because I was succumbing to the challenges of being a single parent. But, our Family support coordinator, Ms. Tanya, was determined to make sure that I returned to school. She helped me get back on track by just being there for my family, and finding resources. As a result, I returned to law school the following semester and even though I didn’t graduate with my class, 2017, I graduated in May 2018.
- How have you taken part in your child’s educational experience at Educare Chicago?
I have been heavily involved in my son’s educational experience. I have volunteered in Ms. Glenda’s class at every possible chance. She was an amazing teacher. She taught my son how to potty train, recognize letters in his name, and she regularly gave me parenting strategies. Sometimes, I consider her a second mother because of the care and concern that she showed for both Eli and I.
In addition, my son was diagnosed with development delays. I told his Family support and she took care of everything to get him enrolled in Early Intervention. When his therapists came to the classroom to give him services, I tried to re-schedule my day, so I could see what they were doing and continue his services at home. But if I couldn’t Ms. Glenda made sure that I was updated. Today, he receives speech therapy outside of Educare, but I work with his Educare teaching team to incorporate his services into his learning experiences. I know that every mom thinks their children are the best, but I can confidently say that Educare helped bring out the best qualities in my child and he’s on a path to be prepared for Kindergarten.
Overall, I try to participate in the Educare’s programs, from the monthly attendance dinners, to the parent talks, to the Math events. Actually, the Math on Mondays was probably one of my favorite events because I used the strategy of reading the book, From Head to Toe, and rolling a die to teach Eli how to count. He loves the game. Plus, he’s learning how to recognize numbers, count dots, as well as counting to 5. The events are a great bonding experience for my family and networking with other parents.
- What advice would you give to other parents looking for early education programs for their children?
I am so impressed with Educare that I tell everyone, from single moms to professionals about my experiences. When I see parents struggling to find someone to “watch their kids,” or unable to buy diapers to send to daycare, I tell them about Educare and how they provide diapers and milk to help. Also, the staff will do more than watch you kids because they have bachelors and masters and doctorates. They are the best in the game!
My advice to other parents is to get involved with the teaching team, staff, and programs. Then, take advantage of the resources offered by the school. Having a child with developmental delays was hard on me because I felt that I did something wrong but my family support made the process run smooth. I guess that being an open book really made it possible for the staff to find solutions.