This week we are celebrating the Week of the Young Child where we recognize that the early childhood years (birth through age 8) lay the foundation for children’s success in school and later life. The Week of the Young Child is a time to consider the role we all play in meeting the needs of young children and their families.

“Do you want your child to go to a daycare, or a place more like a school?” This simple question, posed by Caream Bryant’s best friend, changed her life and her family’s, forever.

Twenty-two years ago, Caream’s decision to enroll her son Chauncey in Children’s Home & Aid’s early childhood education program started the ball rolling toward brighter futures. Now, two of her sons are alums of the agency’s early childhood education programs, and a third is currently enrolled at the Mitzi Freidheim Child & Family Center.

When Chauncey was born, Caream was determined to start him off on the right foot. This young, single mom needed care and educational opportunities for her six-month-old, but it had to be the right fit. “I wanted more than just a daycare,” she explains. “I wanted an environment where he was growing and learning.” When her best friend told her about Children’s Home & Aid’s Early Childhood Education Center in their community, she was thrilled. “There aren’t a lot of educational childcare opportunities in Englewood,” she admits. “When I saw how different the center was from others I had looked at — with actual classrooms and a curriculum — I was sold.” She enrolled Chauncey the very next day.

It wasn’t long before Chauncey was learning and thriving at the center. And Caream was thriving too. “I was able to get a better shift at my job and work extra hours to provide for my family,” she offers. “I had the chance to enroll in college, knowing my child was taken care of.”

When Caream became a mom again, she didn’t hesitate to enroll her younger son, Jaleel, at the center as well. Chauncey and Jaleel were enrolled at the center from age 6 months until they were five years old. Then, fast forward a few more years and Caream’s third son, Jemini became a member of the Mitzi Freidheim Center family.

“Mitzi is a place where you can go for help and no one judges you or has an ulterior motive. They really want to help and don’t want anything in return,” she affirms, choking up. “And help like this changes your life.”

She continues, “Children’s Home & Aid and the Mitzi Freidheim Center gave Chauncey, Jaleel and now Jemini a leg up in life — the extra leg I didn’t have at the time.”

“I was young when I was pregnant with Chauncey. I was 19 years old and fresh out of high school. I wanted to raise my son and go to college somehow. The center gave me a roadmap and helped me see the bigger picture. They helped me set goals for myself and my children.”

“I’ve seen growth in all my boys over the years,” she asserts. She credits the center for starting them on the path to success. Beyond academic learnings, the boys improved their social and behavioral skills. “I wanted my sons to be helpful, respectful, polite and smart,” Caream reveals. “They’re all these things and so much more. I couldn’t be prouder.”

The behaviors and skills the boys learned at the center gave them a foundation for a lifetime of success. Caream beams when she explains how Chauncey, now 22, works at University of Illinois hospitals and plans to go to college soon. Jaleel is a thriving 13-year-old in seventh grade and enjoys his classes and teachers. And her youngest, Jemini loves coming to Mitzi. This happy three year old is outgoing and smart, with a bright future ahead of him.

Children’s Home & Aid’s Early Childhood and Family Centers, like the Mitzi Freidheim Child & Family Center in Englewood, are changing lives one child, and one family, at a time. Caream, Chauncey, Jaleel and Jemini are living proof.