EDUCATIONUnited Way of Madison County assures children, teenagers, and adults have the opportunity to develop
skills leading to graduation with a high school diploma or equivalent and be college or career ready.
Carissa Mendoza was starting a new job and was in search of a child care center close by where she felt comfortable leaving her young daughter, Sabrina. With Sabrina being her first child in "daycare", Carissa was very nervous about leaving her with someone she didn't know. One of her co-workers told Carissa about the Early Childhood Education Center at the Downtown YMCA, and Carissa decided to stop by for a tour with her daughter. During the tour, the teacher invited a shy Sabrina to participate in an art project with other children in the three year old class, and the warm welcome that Sabrina received sold Carissa almost immediantely.
Within weeks, Sabrina grew to be more independent and began to show the desire to learn at home. She starting singing, retelling stories, and even teaching her baby dolls what she had learned in class. By the time she graduated from the First Class Pre-K program, Sabrina had met all developmental standards measured by the Alabama Developmental Standards and Preschool, and by the end of her kindergarten year, Carissa said that Sabrina was exceeding her reading level by a full grade!
Carissa credits the Early Childhood Education Center for showing her what quality care should look like. "The Y has had both of my kids in the daycare and I love you all. I would not have chosen another center for my kids, especially after Sabrina learned so much. It meant the world to me to when I almost lost everything and you were right there to give me names, numbers, and places that could help me get the things I needed. Most of all, thank you for giving me scholarships for my kids. Without this, I would not have been able to work because I couldn't afford the full rate."
As part of the Care Center's "Fuel Their Hunger for Learning" after school efforts with New Hope High School students, a 3-D archery program was created to engage teenagers struggling academically. Twelve boys signed up, all struggling with their grades and none even considering attending college. Many teens in the New Hope area are already hunters and fisherman, having been taught to shoot a bow and arrow by their father, family member, or friend.
Practice was held after school three days a week, keeping these boys off the streets and out of trouble. The team participated in several local tournaments, which encouraged parental involvement. They always did well at these tournament, and ultimately won the state championship!
Even more exciting, the only senior on the team was chosen as Archer of the Year for the State of Alabama, and was recruited by three colleges to be a part of their archery program! This high school senior never dreamed he would be able to attend college, and as a result, he never let himself consider what career he might like. Now, he has the opportunity and a reason to dream! This has set a new precendence and bigger expectations for the other members of the archery team, and lives are being transformed.
Angela, a mentally disabled young lady with a charismatic smile, lost her mother early in 2013, and moved to Huntsville to live with her sister. Her mother had been very protective of her, so when Angela decided to attend the McKemy Center, it was her first time participating in a work environment.
After an extensive vocational evaluation, it was obvious that Angela possessed a great many marketable skills. At her 30-day meeting, work options were discussed and a pathway to employment was developed specifically for Angela, and after receiving job skills training at the McKemy workshop, she did so well she was referred for community integrated employment. By July, Angela was working at Zaxby's as a dining room attendant. She started with simply refilling the napkin and straw containers, cleaning tables, and emptying trash, but has since been promoted as a member of the Zaxby's team to taking meals out to customers in the dining room, calling out numbers for the take-out orders, putting cookies and brownies on the trays for baking, and packaging food for storage in the freezer.
In addition to work tasks, Angela has learned to ride public transporation to work, and she has blossomed from being very shy to a self-assured lady. Angela has been recognized for having excellent customer service to the point of receiving tips and gifts from customers, many of whom have noted that her friendly smile makes them feel welcomed whenever they walk thorugh the door.