This is Evelyn’s story

My journey with Strong Start began in the winter of 2013. My daughter was in Senior Kindergarten when her teacher told me she was not demonstrating the necessary early literacy skills she needed to succeed in school. She recommended Strong Start Letters, Sounds, and WordsTM program, informing me that she had seen other children go through the program, and drastically improve their literacy skills. She believed the same thing could happen for my daughter.

The Letters, Sounds and Words program offers one-on-one lessons with a volunteer, focusing on letters, sounds, words, and building words. Half an hour, once a week, for 10-weeks is all it took. I witnessed my daughter excel in those weeks unlike anything I’d ever seen before! She went from knowing a few of her sounds to knowing them all! From being able to read a few words, to being able to read a full book! I remember how excited she was to show me her letter and sound cards, with the stars punched around them at the end of the program. This was truly amazing.

Following the program, she was so confident with her literacy skills. I’ll never forget the look of joy in her eyes. The program helped set her on a path for success in school. She continues to enjoy reading, and to this day, language studies is still one of her favorite subjects in school.

After I saw the difference the program made for my daughter, I knew I wanted to get involved. I spoke with the school and looked into volunteering myself. I found that to be a Volunteer Coach, I needed to attend two, 2-hour training sessions, held at a school in my community. The training helped me feel prepared for the volunteer role and taught me how to work with a child. I learned proper educational techniques to support children in their cognitive, language, and literacy development. Soon after I completed the training, I found myself within my daughter’s school as a Volunteer Coach.

I was helping give back to children in Senior Kindergarten and Grade One, as other volunteers had once done for my daughter. I enjoyed seeing my daughter in her school community and being part of her learning environment, while also helping other children and families. I volunteered my time on the days I was off from work, and very quickly found that my volunteer position provided a greater sense of accomplishment than my full-time career did at the time. I saw tremendous changes in the children I worked with. They made incredible gains in their language and literacy development, which they will use for the rest of their lives! This feeling of accomplishment gave me such fulfillment that I decided it was time to make a career change.

“How can I do this for a living,” I asked myself. I researched what was available at Conestoga College and found the Early Childhood Education diploma program. The program would take me into the school system, where I could be involved with Full Day Kindergarten programs, making a difference across my community. I knew I had found what I wanted to do! After speaking with my family, I made the jump from full-time employment to full-time courses at Conestoga College, obtaining a Registered Early Childhood Education diploma!

Now in my final term of the Early Childhood Education program, I chose to complete my last placement with Strong Start’s preschool program, Get Ready for SchoolTM. This is an atypical placement which I applied for through Conestoga College. Beginning with the school-based Letters, Sounds and Words program, which inspired me to make a change in my life, I am now giving back and making a difference in the lives of preschool children through the Get Ready for School program.

I completed my placement as an Instructor in the program, helping children succeed in 4 community centres throughout Kitchener. The Get Ready for School program runs from January to June and helps prepare children for a successful entry into school. The program benefits children as they learn classroom behaviors, letter sounds, and vocabulary, all while building autonomy. These are all skills children need to be successful in Junior Kindergarten.

The power of Strong Start for children, families, and the educational system is unfathomable! This organization supports children in their development of language, literacy, and cognitive skills, while aiding the teachers and supporting schools. Strong Start supports and engages community members, including families, and provides meaningful volunteer experiences. If I had not started volunteering in the Letters, Sounds and Words program, I would never have made such a tremendous revelation, changing career paths, and going back to school.

The Strong Start program has changed my life and it has changed my daughter’s life. With the experience I gained in both the Letters, Sounds and Words program and the Get Ready for School program, I will continue to teach within community programs, because I have witnessed their vast benefits to families in our society. If you’ve ever wanted to make a difference in your own life and be involved with a charitable organization that values community partnership, and children’s holistic development, take the time to look into Strong Start. I can’t thank them enough for what they have done for me and my family.