‘It was divine intervention!” This is how Maria would describe her journey with CentroNía. Born and raised in Colombia, Maria moved to the United Stated four years ago to live with her mother. After completing her bachelor’s degree in international relations from Florida International University, Maria decided to move to DC to gain experience in her field. It was during her time in DC where she met her husband Devin, a DC native who she met while she was working as an intern. Their love blossomed and it wasn’t long before they welcomed their daughter Serena into their lives.

Today, Serena is two years old and attends CentroNía’s Early Childhood Education Program in the Columbia Heights. When Maria found out about the program, she was going through one of the hardest moments of her life. During her pregnancy, it was very hard for Maria to find a job and Devin was only making minimum wage at his part-time job. With rent prices so high, there was no way they could afford their own apartment. These circumstances led Maria and Devin to seek housing assistance for their family. While they waited for permanent placement, they traversed the shelter system for nearly six months during Maria’s pregnancy. It was during this time in the shelters that Maria would give birth to Serena.

After Serena was born, Maria was desperate to find employment and help with family expenses – most importantly finding a stable home for their family. However, in order to work, Maria needed child care. She struggled to find a reliable, trustworthy person to take care of Serena while she was at work. In her search, she happened to meet a former CentroNía staff member who told her about the Early Childhood Education program. After completing the application process, Serena was soon enrolled at the age of three months. With childcare covered, Maria found a job as an administrative assistant in Virginia and her family was able to move into an apartment.

I cannot express how relieved I felt that my daughter was going to be in a safe, multicultural place,” Maria says. “As a multicultural family, it was important to me that my child attended a center where she could meet children from different cultures.”

Seeing Serena’s growth and development reassures Maria that her daughter is in the right place. Serena is learning very fast. Her mom says she can already count from 1 to 12 in English and Spanish! Serena also understands emotions and can express how she feels. She loves to repeat everything she hears and can say things like “I love you”, “see you later”, and “I’m sad”.

“My daughter loves the school and never cries when it’s time for me to drop her off.  She is always sharing the songs they sing in class so that I can sing them with her at home,” Maria expresses.

Maria appreciates the multicultural and bilingual environment CentroNía provides Serena and her family. For her it is important her daughter speaks Spanish. Even though she always tries to speak in Spanish at home, her husband only speaks English, so learning both languages at CentroNía is really helping. Maria is also grateful her daughter’s teachers are welcoming and loving to her and especially to Serena. As she sees her daughter grow and learn, Maria is elated her daughter is receiving high-quality education and care in a safe place.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from or what resources you have, all children at CentroNía are treated equally and given the opportunity to start at the same place,” Maria says. “Everyone at CentroNía really has a mission and passion to help!”