Stephanie was first inducted into the Grace Place family the way many join, at the insistence of a current student. Usbeidy, who along with her three young children are long-time students at Grace Place, provided the first spark. When Usbeidy met Stephanie and her two-and-a-half-year-old son Anthony at swim class, it didn’t take long for her to bring up Grace Place. “You have to go! It will be amazing for Anthony. They can help you get him ready for kindergarten!” exclaimed Usbeidy.
Stephanie was reluctant at first, but at Usbeidy’s persistence, she decided to give it a try. “After a few times seeing her it became clear she wasn’t going to give it up. She was so passionate. I figured I’d give it a try,” recalls Stephanie.
It didn’t take long for Stephanie to realize why Usbeidy was so passionate. “After a few weeks of Bright Beginnings, I got it.” Stephanie began to see Anthony’s cognitive and social development soar. He was learning shapes and colors, the alphabet and numbers. He was making friends and gaining independence.
It wasn’t only Anthony that was feeling the impact of their time at Grace Place. Stephanie was surprised by how much she was learning and by the support network she was finding among the other parents in the program. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, the color of your skin, or what language you speak, at Grace Place, you’re part of the family,” reflects Stephanie. Now in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, Stephanie and Anthony’s “Grace Place family” is one of the things they miss most from their pre-pandemic life.
The pair have found serenity in the interaction they have been able to have with Grace Place and their classmates. “The Family Home-Learning Guide has been great! Every week we do all the new activities. I have been posting pictures of Anthony in the WhatsApp group the parents and teachers at Grace Place have started,” reports Stephanie. “All the moms have been sharing pictures and videos of the kids, it’s keeping us all sane and going during this quarantine. One of the hardest parts for me has been the social isolation. I miss my girls!” Stephanie lovingly remarks of her classmates.
Stephanie has been applying strategies and principals learned at Grace Place to keep Anthony engaged and learning during these challenging circumstances. “Anthony loves to learn. We’ve had to get creative, but we’re having so much fun playing and making things together. I’ve been practicing what I learned in Bright Beginnings and he’s been loving all the fun activities and reading we do together.”
While Stephanie and her family are trying to make the most of the situation, like all of us, they are anxious for this pandemic to pass. “It’s scary, but we are just taking it day-by-day. Grace Place’s support has helped tremendously. Every day we take a little walk in the yard and Anthony points down the street looking for the Grace Place bus and asking for his friends. We are both looking forward to the day we get to go back.”
Stephanie has been furloughed from her part-time job, but she feels incredibly lucky that her husband has been able to continue working for now.
Grace Place team members personally reached out to each family enrolled. Presently, two-thirds of our families have been negatively impacted financially due to the coronavirus. Many of our parents’ jobs have been lost or furloughed indefinitely, while others have reduced hours, or have needed to forego hours to stay at home with their children due to school closures. So far, our families are cumulatively losing over $1M per month in lost wages.
In addition to providing educational programming and emergency food relief, Grace Place is currently exploring ways to assist its families as they try to mitigate the repercussions of financial loss that this pandemic has already caused. A loss that will undoubtedly continue until a resolution has been found. If you’d like to support Grace Place’s work, make a gift to the COVID-19 RELIEF FUND by clicking here.