Like many others I am a strong supporter and advocate of ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program). ECEAP has become a passion of mine as it has changed my life completely. After the summer of 2008, I began to look for a preschool program for my daughter Emily, the oldest of my two children. What I discovered was that we couldn’t afford any of the numerous places I had found. When I decided to give up, an aunt of mine referred me to Carlota Santoya-Goodman, the Family Support Specialist and lead teacher of Avanza, an all-Spanish ECEAP program in South Hill (Puyallup) where we were living at the time. Emily was shortly enrolled.
At that time, in my mind I thought preschool was kind of like day care with some basic school teachings like numbers and letters. And even better ECEAP was for free. Who doesn’t like free? Boy was I wrong! In my culture education is not always a priority, which I learned very quickly. But even more important is the importance of being involved in my child’s education. As Emily was learning so was I. In ECEAP I saw how the experiences in the early years have a critical and lasting impact on their lifelong development. And how children flourish in safe, healthy, supportive and caring environments – which my children were not always getting due to the domestic violence that was in our home.
Thanks to the awesome attention and support my family received, I found that courage to leave the situation we were living in. I finally figured out that I didn’t want to be the very young mother of two being mistreated by mental and physical abuse at age 20. I truly felt I was no one and that anything I thought was invalid. Slowly getting involved with the program new doors were opeing. I started as a very quiet and shy girl who just needed a little TLC to flourish. ‘Til this day I am still involved currently “chair” for ECEAP’s Policy Council. As well as a peer Professional, Parent Ambassador and a volunteer for interview panels at the Puget Sound Educational Service District. Going through many trainings, I have learned to become a leader. I desire to be a real role model for Hispanic families and community, as well as a resource who can help support and empower them to reach goals.
Looking at the Governor’s 2010 Budget, ECEAP is facing huge cuts, 1,500 to 1,600 “slots,” better known as families will be cut. This eliminates all 3-year-olds. This year we have 1,609 3-year-olds. That’s 20 percent of 8,053 children being served. A $10.6 million cut. Waiting lists are already 50 percent more than last year.
Now is the time to let our Legislators know the negative impact this will have to thousands of children and families including my own, now that my youngest child Christian is 3. I many not get to enroll him as early as I would have wanted. A year of critical early learning will pass him by. ECEAP is very high quality. ECEAP is a proven program delivering strong results and to many a safety net.