I can remember the first time I passed out flyers in my neighborhood advertising my service for babysitting. All of the small children in my neighborhood wanted me to play because I am silly and I love to dance. I have a gift. A gift that put smiles on the faces of the very small. When I was 12 years old my mom told me I could get a lucrative business started if I had the right message and price. That was many years ago. Although I never started my own business I still had the drive and energy to work with small children. As an adult I heard the calling for teaching early childhood and have decided to make a career out of it.
At 23 I came to RI to visit my mother in 1995 while my husband served his last seven month deployment tour with the US Navy. While waiting for him to return I took care of my growing three year old and my growing belly. How things changed for me. My husband left us in RI. Said he didnt want to be married anymore. So, My baby born, my husband gone and now homeless, I found myself divorced and raising two little girls on my own. To take care of myself and my girls, I found employment at several small early childhood schools in RI but nothing captures my interest. I found myself hopping around from center to center looking for the right place to work. I finally found the perfect job teaching at this little school house in Providence RI did. This school has the most dedicated teachers and the most engaged families that I’ve ever met. At 27 I found not just a job but an extended family. My director at the time, Leslie Gell, really had trust in my abilities to do an effective job as a lead teacher even without my degree. Leslie had faith in me which helped me to have faith in myself. Parents talked about our teaching and waited in line to send their kids to our school because the word of mouth is powerful in Providence. Time passed I’m now 40 and I have seen great teachers come and go. My director Leslie also left leaving a position open for Chris Amirault to take. He too is an amazing director with goals for the school and the staff to continue to be on top of the world in early childhood education. BFP was one of the first schools in Providence to get a five star rating from Bright Stars and I felt that I had a hand in that. With all of the success of the school I still felt that I needed something more. Leslie and Chris have always wanted the best for me. At least this is what I feel. It’s almost as if they are my parents. Which reminds me of how I feel about that.
My mother has her Masters in Education. Even though she grew up very poor and without her own mothers guidance, my mother has done very well for herself. My mother was college bound even after giving birth to me because her mother took care of me while she was living on campus. My mother later joined the Army and i stayed with my grandma a bit longer. my mother later got her masters while serving. My story is a little different from her’s. At 20 I married my high school boyfriend and was pregnant with my first daughter in my first year of college, I couldn’t finish school and have my daughter at the same time. I needed to make a choice so I stayed home with her. A few years later, now 23 I found myself pregnant again. My mother pushed me to go back to school after my divorce. But the road was hard for me. I didn’t have a grandmother to watch my girls for me while I stayed on campus. I needed to work, I needed to pay for child care and rent. I really wanted to be there for my girls instead of always too busy. College was out of the question. For a long, long time.
In May of this year, I was working in the office at my school gathering information and uploading documentation for TSG. Chris reserved a phone call, I heard the whole thing. He said, “Hi Leslie. Yup. She’s here I will talk with her today and get back to you. Thanks for calling.” He asked Donna for my whereabouts and I said, “I’m in here!” He came into the office space where I was working, closed the door and sat down. We talked about the state of RI moving towards having all preschool teachers obtain their bachelors degrees by 2014. He told me about a program designed for working teachers who have tons of experience in the field but no degrees. That this program will help them get their degree very quickly but it will take lots of work. He told me about the Open House meeting at R2LP and that I should go. It all sounded too good to be true and I had to find out for myself so I went. I saw Leslie who now works as director at R2LP, she came up to me and gave me a big hug. I miss working with her everyday. She was really the one who saw me for who I truly am. I saw Christine who said, “This program is perfect for you!” She gave me a hug too. I sat down at a table, alone but excited. Then they spoke. Adam and Dennis talked about the benefits of College Unbound, the success of Phyllis who was also there to speak. I couldn’t believe my ears! I couldn’t wait to tell my mom! I couldn’t wait to start!
College Unbound has changed my life. I am so grateful for all the people in my life who cares enough for me to see me do well. I can’t allow slip-ups to stop me now. I am focused on me. It’s my turn. I have seen too much. I now know too much. I feel confident in my abilities now to talk with my peers about what we do. There is no going back, I’ve come too far to turn back now. I feel empowered and motivated because of college. When I am around the women in my cohort, I want to talk more about what it is that drives me. I am excited beyond words for my future.