ACS and CUNY Join Forces to Educate NYC Parents

Yinett Sánchez received her associate certificate in child development through ACS and CUNY. (Photo via El Diario)

When Yinett Sánchez played with her friends as a child in La Romana, a city on the Dominican Republic’s Caribbean coast where she was born and lived until she was 12, she did not aspire to be a teacher or a dancer. Her sights were set on the fields of medicine and biology. However, more than 20 years later, she splits her time between caring for her 7-year-old son and her newborn daughter and the passion she feels for her teacher’s assistant job at a learning center for children under 5 years old in the Bronx.

Amid drawings, lullabies and storybook reading, Sánchez has found a deep love for teaching and a professional mission that was not clear to her until very recently. The constant disappointment and problems she saw at childcare facilities when her son was younger drove her to become part of his learning environment, taking her on a road that would eventually lead her to get certified as a Child Development Associate (CDA).

“I couldn’t have imagined any of this. I wanted to be a doctor and I did not have the patience that children require,” recalled Sánchez. “The opportunity to study came some time after I enrolled my son in the Mid-Bronx CCRP Head Start from the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS).”

She added that, in addition to educating her son, ACS encouraged her to become an active part of her neighborhood’s activities, first by becoming president of the Delegate Agency Policy Committee – a board of sorts formed by parents of young children enrolled in Head Start programs – and later by obtaining her CDA certificate.

“My dream is to be the director of one of these Head Start centers, and obtaining my CDA is a very important step in that direction,” said the educator. “It has not only helped me professionally, but also with my own child and now with my baby.”

Sánchez is one of around 50 parents of children enrolled in ACS early education programs who obtained the title through an initiative launched by the city in 2016 that allows them to work in Early Learn, Early Head Start and Early Start programs.

The program, funded by ACS, CUNY and other sponsors, can be used to obtain early education jobs, as well as an undergraduate college degree, which some parents have already been able to do.

“Who knows our Head Start kids more than their parents?” said ACS Commissioner David A. Hansell, adding that part of ACS’s mission is to train families by providing them the resources and support they need to prosper.

For that reason, said the official, ACS and CUNY, in association with CUNY’s New York City Early Childhood Professional Development Institute, launched this initiative with the purpose of opening the door to low-income families while also training additional highly-qualified teachers to work with the children.

(…) “Conquering this first step in the stairway to a career in early education makes it possible for these successful candidates to teach young children in high quality programs while they obtain a college degree,” said Sherry Cleary, Executive Director of the New York City Early Childhood Professional Development Institute.

Preschool education experts say that the cultural connection is one of the most influential factors in the parents’ decision when choosing a day care center for their children. Some Hispanic parents would rather leave them with relatives or in a child care center that shares their same culture. Still, not all these places are registered and approved by the Department of Education (DOE).

With the purpose of educating parents and also promoting the creation of high quality day care centers in neighborhoods, the program represents a free alternative for preschool teachers, child care workers and others seeking to work in the early child education field.

(…) Because this initiative is directed to low-income parents with children enrolled in early education programs, getting certified is free. (…)

So far, ACS has reported that 43 parents have successfully obtained their CDA certificate and 21 others are on their way to graduate this summer, totaling almost 65 people who have benefited from the program so far.

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