Family Learning | April 30, 2020

Look for the Helpers: Ms. Sharon’s Story   

If the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that not all heroes wear capes. Following Mr. Roger’s famous advice to “look for the helpers” during a crisis, you find Sharon Smith. Ms. Sharon, as she is affectionately known, and her team at the La Peninsula Community Head Start Organization, are heroes to dozens of families of first responders in the South Bronx. During the pandemic, La Peninsula is maintaining one of their sites as Emergency Child Care for first responders and essential workers. As a site director at La Peninsula, Ms. Sharon recognizes the need for her work. “During this pandemic our first responders and essential workers are out there risking their lives and having a place to leave their babies is one less thing they should have to worry about. Knowing their children are taken care of, learning, having fun and not worried about what’s happening in the world makes them feel comfortable while they take care of the city.” 

The Ready Go Science! program is helping La Peninsula take care of first responders’ families, and other families staying home, by providing books, art materials, and at-home learning activities. Ms. Sharon says, “Having the opportunity to receive resources through our partnership will give the children additional avenues to engage, develop, and explore. We appreciate it!”  

Ms. Sharon has been a pillar of this community for over 20 years. She has been working with young children for as long as she can remember, starting with baby sitting and working in the Summer Youth Employment program and leading to a whole career in early childhood education. “I love working with young children.  They see everything through new eyes. Everything is so new and fresh to them. They love discovering, exploring and being silly. I love helping and watching my little friends overcome their “I don’t know how to” and then transitioning through repetition and practice to that “look what I did” ta da. It’s so fulfilling seeing those “I got it” or “a-ha” moments on their faces when they figure out something new!”  

In Ms. Sharon’s programs, family engagement is a key component. “At this age sometimes it has to feel less like school and more like a play date with learning.” This approach to embracing the whole family in the learning process is a big hit for families as well. As one La Peninsula mom shared after participating in a school program with her child, “My favorite part was working with my family and communicating with them. I like being able to play with my kids like this. And getting to work with everyone here; it’s like the director [Ms. Sharon] said, we’re like a little family here.”

Through the Ready Go Science! partnership, Sharon has been able to offer more family learning opportunities like the Little Friends of the River program with the Bronx Children’s Museum and the Play and Learn Science Family workshops with WNET and the New York Public Library. She says that these partnerships have helped make learning fun. 

Students from La Peninsula attend a Ready Go Science! family workshop series at the library.

One thing remains consistent, Ms. Sharon’s commitment to supporting the growth of the young children in her community. “Being able to make a difference in the life of a child and their family. It’s a great feeling knowing that our families know that we care about them and that our doors are always open to them. 

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The contents of this document were developed under a cooperative agreement #PRU295A150003, from the U.S. Department of Education. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.