“Oh, hiya Mommy.”
Victoria cried uncontrollably when, three-year-old, Kane called out to her. Kane struggled with verbal communication early on, so this broken sentence spoke volumes. Even two years later, Victoria still gets emotional thinking about that special moment.
“I walked in the door and he didn’t know I was there,” Victoria said. “I looked over, he turned and looked at me, kind of one of those magical movie moments. We locked eyes and he goes, ‘oh, hiya Mommy.’ Those were like his first words! Those were his first words and it was like lightbulbs after that.”
The long journey towards those first words was tough for Victoria and Kane. When Kane was two, he started attending a childcare center, but with his difficulties communicating, problems started to arise. Quickly the staff assumed Kane had a learning disability.
As soon as Victoria was told this she went straight to the doctor, only to find that Kane was fine. This same cycle happened twice more for Victoria and Kane leaving them both frustrated, discouraged and with nowhere to go. Until Victoria came across the Children’s Learning Center at Goodwill of Southern Indiana, a Metro United Way Excellence Academy – supported in partnership with Community Coordinated Child Care (4-C) and the Lift of Life Foundation.
“From the first day I walked in, his teachers were embracing and loving and in the previous daycares you could tell he was just kind of a peg, in their system,” Victoria explained. “At the Excellence Academy he was Kane, he was a person, his needs, they met him where he was at.”
It didn’t take long for Kane to grab tightly to his Excellence Academy and flourish. In two short years at the Children’s Learning Center, Kane graduated more than ready for the challenges of Kindergarten.
“They took a child who started at three who didn’t speak, to a child who graduated at five who can count to 60, who knows his alphabet, who can spell all kinds of words, I think Kane is up to 150 words right now. He knows all of his shapes, he is very vocal now,” Victoria proudly notes. “I do really attribute a large portion of that to the care and the teachers at the excellence academy, who cared enough to work with him, to help him, to get him there.”
It wasn’t just the curriculum that got Kane to this point, the relationships and connections with his teachers made an even bigger impact.
“It was a family,” Victoria said. “They have the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ They definitely were our village, they were an amazing village.”
Nearly half of the children in our region start Kindergarten underprepared, Kane was on the verge of becoming a part of that statistic, but thanks to Metro United Ways’ commitment to early childhood development and excellence academies, Kane is excited to learn, grow and keep talking.
The Excellence Academy early learning centers are strengthening the skills of preschool teachers, improving classroom environments and teaching kids to love learning. The benefit of kindergarten readiness includes raising lifetime wages and reducing the likelihood that children will drop out of school. Studies show that children in the Excellence Academy are twice as ready for kindergarten than that of their like peers.
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And help more kids like Kane get started on the right foot.