VISIONS Early Learning Center
, the childcare program offered through Children Inc.
, celebrates its 25th anniversary Thursday.
For Teresa Smith, assistant teacher at VISIONS, it’s a celebration of a community resource that provides children with high quality childcare, but it’s also a celebration for the opportunities presented to young mothers like herself who have sought out assistance from VISIONS while trying to improve their lives through education.
“I became pregnant at the age of 24 and had my daughter Angelia May 1, 2012 at the age of 25,” Smith says. “I stayed with my mom during my pregnancy, because my daughter was gaining weight too fast, and I was in a lot of pain. So I was labeled ‘high risk’ and couldn’t work.”
After her daughter was born, Smith moved into her first apartment and began searching for a job, but the process was accompanied by a variety of barriers.
“I came across the Cincinnati Cooks!
program and I was eager to enroll, but I didn’t have childcare or transportation,” Smith says.
Then she came across VISIONS, a 4 STAR-rated center according to Ohio’s Step Up to Quality program, and her life changed.
“I went and checked it out, and it was a very welcoming place located across the street from my school,” Smith says.
After completing Cincinnati Cooks!, Smith began volunteering at VISIONS, where she could spend time with her daughter and put her prior childcare experience and newfound cooking knowledge to use.
“Then an opportunity to be a ‘nap-aid’ opened up,” Smith says. “I got the position part-time for about six months, then the summer program opened up and they needed a full-time seasonal assistant teacher, and I agreed to fill the position.”
Opportunities continued to arise, and Smith found herself with a full-time position as Assistant Teacher in the toddler room. When she’s not at work she’s working — just as other VISIONS mothers are — to pursue higher education.
“Here I am a year and a half later going to school part-time for my Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education,” Smith says. “I thank VISIONS for opening up their doors to my daughter and me and for giving me a great opportunity to do what I love.
“I feel honored to work for a 4-STAR center who has helped the community for 25 years, and it is really a big family. I cannot speak for all young mothers, but from my experience it is hard. But with someone to reach out to and let you know that they can help — even if it’s just a listening ear — means a lot.”
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