Ruiz and Correa-Hernandez, both bilingual, go into homes, meet in public spaces or sit outside for one-on-one, hour-long parent-child sessions that focus on recognizing letters, colors and shapes. Older kids work on writing their names and reading. The program provides activity books the parents and little ones can work on together after the session ends.
Feedback from the three schools where youngsters eventually enroll has been positive, said Ruiz.
“We get a lot of compliments from pre-school teachers who say the kids are exceptional; the kindergarten teachers say the children know their numbers and shapes,” said Ruiz. “Moms tell me their students (children) are doing well. They aren’t behind on motor skills, and we haven’t detected any language problems.”
Correa-Hernandez herself is part of the program’s success story. In 2004, she and her 5-year-old daughter were among the first participants. Eight years later, she rejoined with two young sons who met with Ruiz weekly. The experience motivated her to earn a college degree.
Along with the educational component, Chispa connects families with organizations such as Gwinnett Cares and the Latin American Association that provide a range of support services.
“Especially since COVID has come, we’ve gotten more connected,” said Troya Jackson, the Chispa program manager. “There’s an overwhelming need for these services.”
Information about Chispa is online at familiesfirst.org/early-learning.
SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at email@example.com or 770-744-3042.