Lightning is a powerful source. It lights up the entire sky when the storm seems darkest. The sky turns orange. For a moment, we see light where there was none. In the deepest and darkest of storms in our lives, we catch those same glimpses of light.
During these storms, thunder follows the lightning. Before the skies brighten, the darkest moments occur. The same may be said of people. Sometimes, in our most pitch-black moments, lightning strikes.
Nebraska Children and Families Foundation believes that all children should thrive, even in the darkest storms including the pandemic. Some of our greatest leaders whom we’re glad to support include our communities and early childhood initiatives like Sixpence, which forges indestructible bonds with families that remain steady during floods, rains, and winds.
Sixpence in Macy, Nebraska, and their community are a perfect example of a group of resilient people who pull together through the storm. The Shinga Zhinga Child Development Center serves the community. The Center is located on the UmonHon reservation and primarily serves teenage parents, community members, and high school staff members. Thanks to Sixpence, the program director Lacey Sateren, said she has witnessed remarkable developments throughout the past year, even during the height of the pandemic.
One of the first achievements she shares includes some incredible academic feats from her teen parents, thanks to their hard work and some Sixpence support.
“With the help of Sixpence, in my three years teaching here, I have seen five high school parents graduate from high school, who otherwise would not have,” she said.
Lacey said that while Sixpence’s resources not only helped get the young parents on-track to graduate but also strengthened their bonds with their children.
“With the [Sixpence] assistance, we were able to provide…childcare while they were in classes, the parenting class they attended an hour a day, and [with that] the resources, books, and supplies were given to them, we were able to increase their bonds with their children, as well as help to shape them into better parents and people for the future,” she said.
The best, however, is yet to come. Lacey said she is proud that one of her families was chosen to attend “Strolling Thunder” in Washington, D.C. in 2019. The deserving recipient was Taria Wolfe, a single mother of two children, Willow and Cethan.
Strolling Thunder is an event that’s put together by the Zero to Three organization that provides national exposure on what families and infants need to thrive. A parent or a guardian and a baby or toddler from each state are chosen to attend.
The representatives share their experiences of parenting during the crucial years of 0-3. The event leaders are passionate about hearing from the parent representatives on issues such as quality childcare and paid family leave. The chosen participants like Taria must undergo a selective application process. Naturally, when Taria was selected to represent Nebraska and make her voice heard, her family and Sixpence coordinator were thrilled.
Some of Sixpence’s other big wins for Taria and her family included the program’s ongoing support for her son. He, too, like his older peers experienced his graduation.
“We were able to provide them with resources for development, literacy materials, projects, academics, and additional support for his mother. He remained in our program, and graduated this past May 2020,” said Lacey.
There are still more successes to report. During spring 2019, the program enrolled a toddler with special needs. Upon his arrival, Lacey said he refused to speak. Instead of playing with others, he preferred to play alone. When he was resistant to following orders or upset, he would respond by screaming.
Thanks to Sixpence’s screenings, the team put the little boy in touch with local early intervention specialists. From there, he was able to get the help he needed and deserved.
According to Lacey, because the boy’s needs were specific, he needed special attention that were beyond the scope of the center. As a result of the center’s collaboration with the right experts, the boy could receive the specific support he needed.
“He was able to receive services that he would not have had if he was not at our center,” said Lacey.
Fast-forward to March 2020, and along with the next spring, a wonderful thing happened. By then, the once-silent child began talking up a storm! He began to ask questions, identify colors, and even play with other children! The Sixpence team continued to help the boy thrive and create a lasting, close relationship with his family.
“We also were able to build a strong bond with his parents, and they were able to come to us comfortably with any questions or concerns they may have,” Lacey said.
But, with storms come discomfort and change. Along with the spring and this little boy’s impressive achievements, the presence of COVID-19 quickly followed. Like many centers, the Shinga Zhinga Child Development Center temporarily closed due to the pandemic. But closure didn’t mean that the program lost touch with their families. In fact, the opposite occurred: the center remained in closer contact than ever with their parents, thanks to social media and the staff’s innovation.
“When we were shut down due to COVID-19, we were able to stay in contact with families through a group created on Facebook,” said Lacey.
“Here, parents and children had access to different activities to do at home, read-alouds, a virtual Circle Time (or academic time), and weekly Zoom meetings where the children could see their friends in a safe environment,” she said.
Lacey said Sixpence ensured that children could virtually engage activities while staying at home.
“We were also able to send out activity packets that included an activity/craft to do at home, books, and any resources or materials they may have needed. We were also able to maintain contact with the families through Facebook, texts, and phone calls.”
Storms are inevitable; they come and go. But storms also indicate a transition. Difficult conditions are a time to test our resolve, stock up on essential items, and fight for our survival. Storms are necessary for our growth. Eventually, crops and flowers push through the ground.
Most of all, harsh weather is a testament to a community’s solidarity and compassion. Throughout this past year, our communities have endured plenty of rain. But throughout these turbulent times, Sixpence continues to impact, work with, and establish bonds with the community at Shinga Zhinga Child Development Center.