Families Share the Impact of the Y’s Early Education and Care Programs

September 01, 2017


The YMCA of Metro Chicago works to ensure that every segment of society feels welcome and is supported at the Y. Read how the Y's Early Education and Care Programs have helped a few families."

In 2017, the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Early Education and Care (EEC) programs provided comprehensive early learning services to children and families across Chicagoland. We continue to offer these services at 10 locations to approximately 924 children annually between the ages of 6 weeks and 12 years. By intentionally infusing diversity and inclusion strategies into everything that we do, we work to ensure that every segment of society feels welcome and is supported at the Y.

Mission Moment: Jeanne Kenney YMCA
Young parents Brittany and Willie Preston were juggling college classes, work and raising a family. Eager to provide more for their five children, ages 3 to 11, they sought a quality early-learning program with compassionate teachers dedicated to nurturing young minds in a safe environment. After months of searching and waiting, a baby carriage in the window of the Jeanne Kenney YMCA caught their attention and changed their lives. Watch video.

Mission Moment: Rauner Family YMCA
In January 2017, Maria walked into Rauner Family YMCA Early Learning Center with her four-year-old son for the first time. Having recently moved to Chicago on a temporary visa, she was seeking a better life for her family —employment, stable housing, and a good education for her son. Soon, she found a job and enrolled her son at the Rauner Family YMCA’s Head Start half-day program. However, her visa expired within a matter of months, and she had to return to her home country in June 2017.

Not long after, Maria decided to come back to Chicago in February 2018, determined to build a life here. After making temporary living arrangements with a friend, she found employment and re-enrolled her son in the full-day Head Start program. After a few months, Maria’s friend could no longer accommodate her family and when they were asked to leave, they had nowhere to go. In desperation, Maria confided in her son’s teacher who helped them find an affordable, but unfurnished apartment. Moved by this mother’s resilience, teachers at the Rauner Family Y banded together to organize a donation drive and help Maria. Families enrolled in the Rauner Family Y’s Early Learning Programs donated enough to fully furnish Maria’s apartment. She and her son are now thriving, supported by a tight-knit community of Y families and staff.

Mission Moment: South Side YMCA
Mr. and Mrs. K had little experience in the American education system, and their son Max had been diagnosed with autism. They were concerned about whether their son would be successful in school. Max had a speech delay, exhibited aggressive behavior when frustrated, had difficulty socializing with other children, and struggled with sensory sensitivity to loud noises. Desperate to find help for their son, Mr. and Mrs. K used an interpreter’s service to contact the South Side YMCA’s Early Learning Center. Although Max’s first 45 days were difficult, his teacher accommodated his needs and completed a development and social-emotional screening. In the fall of 2017, staff worked to provide the child with a referral to Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

With the help of the CPS Assessment Team, Max has since transitioned out of Early Intervention Services and Mr. and Mrs. K are so grateful to see how Max has grown. His social skills have improved, and he now enjoys playing with his classmates.  He uses eye contact and gestures to communicate nonverbally and uses single words to communicate verbally. He has also demonstrated the ability to sort by color.  While Max’s progress was not instant, with sustained and appropriate support services and caring teaching staff, he is progressing.

Mission Moment: YMCA Marshall Family Development Center
Angela Brown’s journey began with the YMCA in 2008 when she enrolled her daughter Susie in Early Head Start at the YMCA Marshall Family Development Center, and her son, Michael, in Head Start at the Dr. Effie O. Ellis YMCA. Susie and Michael have since transitioned to YMCA school-age programming. Her youngest child, Alexandria, is currently enrolled in Early Head Start at the YMCA Orr Family Development Center. Angela has been a model of parent engagement, actively participating in her children’s education. In 2014, she became a Parent Policy Committee member. Two years later, she was elected by unanimous vote to be a City-Wide Parent Policy Council/Programs Committee Delegate. While her children benefited from the educational opportunities provided by the Y, Angela was able to pursue her own educational goals while working as a Certified Nursing Assistant. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Nursing (BSN) in September 2016 and passed her state boards, which allowed her to improve her employment prospects. She recently started a new position as a nurse. 

Academic readiness is one of the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s four mission anchors along with character development, violence prevention, and fitness and healthy living. YMCA centers with childcare and education programs in Chicago have shown to perform well and up to the standards of ExceleRate Illinois Providers.

The Award of Excellence for Family and Community Engagement was obtained by seven different YMCA of Metro Chicago centers, including the Dr. Effie O. Ellis YMCA, First Lutheran YMCA, Garfield Park YMCA, High Ridge YMCA, Rauner Family YMCA, Orr YMCA, and South Side YMCA. In addition, the North Lawndale YMCA received the Award of Excellence for Cultural and Linguistic Practice and nine of the 10 EEC programs maintained National Association for the Education of Young Children Accreditation and Illinois ExceleRate Gold Level rating. EEC obtained city and state licenses for the new Early Learning Center at the Crown Family YMCA Center