While most families come to CentroNía in need of high-quality early childhood education for their children, when they arrive they find much more. Sebawit and her two children, Efrata and Faith, walked into CentroNía with the hope of finding a welcoming, high-quality child care center. She wanted to find a place where she was confident in the teachers and that her children would thrive. As an immigrant and single mother, she also found the support she needed to establish herself and find a career that could sustain her and her children.

Sebawit and her daughters celebrating her graduation from college.

Sebawit was born in Ethiopia and was one of six siblings. The Ethiopian culture greatly values family, and as such her parents and extended family members shared the responsibility of raising and teaching her and her siblings. When she came to CentroNía for the first time, she immediately felt a familiar sense of family among the staff and teachers which comforted her in her decision. Because Sebawit was new to the U.S. and D.C., she was connected to CentroNía’s Family Center to seek community resources and support as she sought to find social services, employment, and education opportunities. Little did she know this referral would change the course of her life.

“I am not a person who gives up easily; I knew that if I work hard, I can get it. I never wanted to be a billionaire…a millionaire…I just want to have a little bit, work hard, and that’s it,” Sebawit said.

Looking to establish a career as an early childhood educator, Sebawit joined CentroNía’s Child Development Associate (CDA) Training program. While taking classes, she also joined CentroNía as a part-time teacher for infants and toddlers in order to earn the required instructional hours to receive her certification. At this time, Sebawit’s passion for educating young children blossomed and she envisioned a clear path for her future career. Most importantly, she understood she was her child’s first teacher—a lesson Sebawit now shares with other parents in the hopes that they too can become better teachers in their homes.

“I learned so much about the theories of child development and teaching from my instructors. Esteban Morales, Heriberto Velasquez, and Rosa Moraes became my mentors and helped me succeed in the class,” Sebawit said.

After receiving the CDA certification, Sebawit then went on to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development. She continues to teach young children at a private center, and now finds herself returning to CentroNía for an exciting new project. The greater Washington area has the country’s largest concentration of residents of Ethiopian descent with 35,000 residents, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Knowing this, CentroNía is starting the first CDA Training Program taught entirely in Amharic and Sebawit will be instructing the 25-30 CDA candidates expected to enroll.

For Sebawit, this opportunity to return to CentroNía is exciting on a personal level, and she believes the impact this will have on Amharic speaking and Ethiopian immigrants working in the childcare industry is even more groundbreaking. Previously, courses were only available in English and Spanish so those who spoke Amharic were forced to take it in a language they may not completely understand. Candidates also had to take the certification exam in that language, which proved to be a barrier for many aspiring educators. With more and more Amharic-speakers seeking to enroll in the CDA class, CentroNía decided to do something. Through partnerships with the DC Office of the State Superintendent and the Council for Professional Recognition, CentroNía is now able to offer the course in Amharic for the first time AND they will be able to take the exam in Amharic.

Faith’s 1st Grade Expo about making a map and learning about measurements at Mundo Verde PCS.

“The CentroNía Institute is excited to offer its CDA Training program in Amharic to make the certification process more accessible to Amharic-speakers seeking their credential,” says Esteban Morales, CentroNía Institute Director. “With this cohort we hope to further diversify this growing workforce in our region.”

This opportunity gives Sebawit hope for the future of the child care industry and for Amahric-speakers seeking a career path. Through her influence as an instructor and mentor, Sebawit can now positively impact the lives of many more children and families—something she is very passionate about. In fact in the fall of 2018, she will begin coursework at the University of the District of Columbia to complete a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. With the advice and support from CentroNía’s Family Center, Sebawit is grateful and happy to be where she is today—personally and professionally.

“The energy at CentroNía is so positive and I can’t wait to be back here doing what I love,” said Sebawit. “CentroNía is a multicultural center and this new CDA course in Amharic is a testament to their commitment to ALL children and families. This is about everybody thriving.”