Donation to Lourie Center Early Head Start

This holiday season the CACEASF made a donation to the Lourie Center Early Head Start Adopt A Family Program to purchase educational/developmental toys for children to support their growth, development and ultimately school readiness. The Lourie Center for Children’s Social & Emotional Wellness is a private, non-profit agency located in Maryland with a mission to improve the social and emotional health of young children and their families through prevention, early intervention, education, research and training. The agency’s Early Head Start Program provides comprehensive, year-round, child and family development services to low-income families with children, prenatal to three years old.

Our mom grew up living and breathing Community Action and Head Start.  Her father, Leon H. Rogers, was the Executive Director (1965-1997) of the first Community Action Agency in Oklahoma, which also administered the first Head Start program in the state.  He and my grandmother instilled a deep love and appreciation for people, community, and education.  Mom was a staunch advocate for Head Start and Early Childhood Education and was the momma bear for all vulnerable children…you could hear her voice loud and clear when she championed the causes near and dear to her heart.  She always said if we could reach more children in the early years and provide them a comprehensive educational experience [like Head Start] then she would have students ready to learn and excel in middle school.  She was incredibly proud of Head Start’s mission and our family’s legacy.  She would be honored to support children and families in need this holiday season.

Adaptive Seating for Shawnee Middle School Students

Second gift in mom’s name given to Shawnee Middle School (SMS). The Special Education Team at SMS asked for funding to support the purchase of adaptive seating:  soft cushions, bean bag and bungee chairs, and wobble chairs. These seats help children feel secure and can diffuse an escalation of  behavior when they are overstimulated. They also allow for movement helping them to stay focused in class.  These tools are very useful in helping children with sensory disorders and those with mild disabilities, emotional disturbance, or severe profound intellectual disabilities.

Mom was a Reading Specialist who after 30+ years of teaching had helped many children learn to read. Her methods and philosophies about teaching and the school system were centered around children and families. As a grandma, she watched as my sister and I navigated through our own children’s struggles to grow and learn to read and write. A few years before her passing, my husband and I started the IEP process for our daughter, which proved much harder than we thought it would be… While I grew tired of her saying…”Well…when I was teaching it was done like this….,” I learned that common sense and conventional wisdom must have a place within an educational framework that expects so much from our children and families. I call it a “Children First Systems Second” approach, but she just called it common sense. Mom’s sense of justice was truly automatic and second nature to her, which is what made her such a wonderful champion for her students and others in her life. It was also an attribute that oftentimes isolated her. Much like my experiences, as she watched me painfully advocate for our daughter’s needs in school. Mom was my champion (as always) and stoic amidst a true personal struggle to accept systemic problems in our educational system for children with disabilities.  While these struggles are very real for many families today, I should say that not every family has the same challenges in obtaining services for their child, which is a wonderful thing! During this time together, we also learned about many new interventions being used to teach children learn how to read, like the Orton Gillingham method, and adaptive seating. Adaptive seating in fact was a very useful intervention used by special education teachers for our daughter in her school while mom was alive. Mom would be very happy to know that this gift will help children feel better and more ready to learn in the classroom. What a positive solution to help children in the classroom!

First Donation: Supporting Childhood Literacy, Phelps Luck Elementary School, Columbia, Maryland

The first donation made by the fund to honor mom purchased one new or gently used book for every child at Phelps Luck Elementary School in Columbia, Maryland. A designated Title I School, the books were given on Read Across America Day, March 29th, to support childhood literacy and build on every child’s love of reading. Anyone that knows mom, knows that she loved reading! She would spend hours in Hallmark reading cards and would stay up all night enjoying a good book. She valued education very much, and would give a book as a gift to share knowledge, inspiration, give hope, or just tell somehow how she felt. I am enjoying rereading the messages in numerous books she gave me.  This donation is also special because mom deeply valued diversity, culture, and inclusion. She would be so happy to know that Bilingual books were also purchased with these funds, making it possible for children to attain exposure to a new language and culture or feel accepted in their own. Making everyone feel included and accepted was something easy and unquestionable for mom. Books are a place of opportunity, and we are so happy that mom’s fund can make them more accessible to the students at Phelps Luck Elementary School in Howard County, Maryland.