2009/2010 Profiles

Meet R2LP’s 2009/2010 AmeriCorps Team

Whether you believe in nature or nurture – or a combination of the two – it’s easy to see why the arts have played such a central role in shaping Quintin Prout. Quintin’s mother is one of a dozen children, all of whom became painters, writers or musicians. And Quintin’s father devoted much of his free time to writing poetry or playing his trumpet.

Quintin, who grew up in a large extended Cape Verdean family on the East Side of Providence, began writing poetry when he was 13. A creative writing teacher at School One kept the flame alive, as did a professor at the Community College of Rhode Island. Indeed, the CCRI professor was so impressed with Quintin’s poems that he arranged to have them published (in 1998) in a volume called Nobe’s Kitchen.

A few years later, Quintin opened an art gallery in Providence. The space doubled as a venue for his poetry workshops, which he also offered through the Black Repertory Company. “My own work has focused on family life and the African-American culture,” says Quintin. “In my workshops I helped others use poetry as autobiography.”

Quintin is currently completing his second year as an R2LP AmeriCorps member. Because of the experience he brought to the program, he spent most of his first year working with older children in after-school programs at the Providence Public Library. In the spring of that year, however, when he was completing data assessments with preschoolers, Quintin developed a keen interest in early childhood education.

“I began rethinking the age group I most like working with,” Quintin says. “I really wanted a second year with AmeriCorps so I could learn more about working with preschoolers and how I relate with them.”

In the R2LP Pre-Kindergarten Classroom where he spends part of his day, Quintin’s success with this age group is clear. An enthusiastic chorus inevitably erupts when he enters the room each morning: “It’s Mr. Quintin,” the four-year-olds sing out in unison.

Another factor triggering Quintin’s new passion for early childhood is fatherhood. “Jahna, who is 3, was born when I was beginning to think I’d never have any children,” he says. “I can’t imagine that now.”

After AmeriCorps, Quintin hopes to continue his work in early education. And his experiences as a father and a pre-K teacher, he says, will come together in a volume of poetry for children – to be called Other Goose.

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AmeriCorps members at Ready to Learn Providence are familiar with hard work, but most would agree that Veronica Burgos has probably done more than they have. A native of Santiago in the Dominican Republic, she spent 30 years as a nurse in the largest hospital in the city, home to more than a million people. Veronica began her career with four years of training while earning a nursing degree from Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra in Santiago.

Now a Rhode Islander after moving to the U.S. in 2004, Veronica lives in Providence with her daughter, a student at CCRI. Veronica is in her second year of service with R2LP; last year she worked at South Providence Library and this year she’s at Knight Memorial Library.  In addition to helping with programs at the library, she visits home child-care providers to introduce literacy activities to the children.

Like hard work, service has long been part of Veronica’s plan. In Santiago, she volunteered her time and skills to administer vaccines to children who needed them.  She also helped start a group that worked to solve problems facing children in the city, including helping teenage children learn to read and providing public information sessions led by doctors.

After her work is done this year, Veronica plans to take a well-deserved vacation in the Dominican Republic.

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Less than six months after moving to Rhode Island from her home in Medellin, Colombia, Nattaly Cadavid signed up with AmeriCorps and Ready to Learn Providence. It was a homecoming of sorts for her, because she was born in Providence 21 years ago, living here only a few months before she and her father were back in Colombia, where she grew up in a loving home with her grandmother Margarita.

Nattaly works in three different rooms at Federal Hill House Early Learning Center, with infants and toddlers one day a week and preschoolers on the other days. She says that of the many things she has learned this year, she is most pleased to find out that working with children comes naturally to her. Nattaly is looking forward to developing her skills as an educator in a second year of service with R2LP. Along the way, she plans to continue studying English, and after that go to college to study psychology and art.

Growing up in Colombia, Nattaly spent several years living on a farm, where her chores included milking the cows. She also lived for many years in Medellin, a city of more than 2 million people.  Next Christmas, she’ll return to Colombia for a happy reunion with her grandmother.

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At the beginning of our AmeriCorps year in August, during our first session, we were asked to line up according to height. Noelle Spinola was very close to the tall end of the line. If we had been asked to line up by age, she would have been the baby in the group. A 2009 graduate of Textron Chamber of Commerce Academy in Providence, Noelle decided to give a year of service before starting college. She plans to begin at Bay State College in the fall or winter for her first two years and transfer later on to “somewhere totally different from here.”

Noelle has worked at two early learning centers this year. Last fall she was at the West End Community Center, and since then she has become a member of the team in five classrooms at Heritage Park YMCA Early Learning Center in Pawtucket.

When she was younger, Noelle was very active with the Magic Dragons cheerleading team, traveling to several states in the Northeast for competitions. She hopes to continue cheering when she’s in college. In the past year, Noelle has found a different way to express herself, writing poems to describe  how she’s feeling. She says writing has always been something that comes easily to her.

After college, her experience with Ready to Learn may prove useful as she pursues the goal of working with children with disabilities.

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Reading is important to Maria Perez. In her second AmeriCorps year, Maria returned to Knight Memorial Library, where she supports programs for children of all ages. Among her accomplishments, she developed a weekly session focusing on world music and culture for children 8 to 12 years old. After hours, she sometimes goes to another library, the Mount Pleasant branch, to take part in a book club for adults. And at home, her favorite activities? Reading and listening to music.

Another part of Maria’s work is to bring library materials to eight home child-care providers. Several days each week she visits the homes and enjoys talking, singing and reading with the children.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Maria lived in Puerto Rico for about 10 years before moving to Rhode Island three years ago. She has two children: Natasha, 22, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, with high honors in archaeology and now works in Denver; Jorge, 26, graduated from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, with a dual major in economics and systems analysis and is now pursuing a master’s degree in business at MIT.

Maria is a member of the Mamá a Mamá program, supporting mothers of young children. She has her own experience as a mother to rely on, but also memories of an active childhood: as a member of the Girl Scouts, she went camping on the beach and in the mountains; in school, she performed in plays and won a writing award; later on, she took part in a campaign to help adults learn to write.

After this year, Maria says, she wants to find another opportunity to serve the community.

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There are two kinds of people in the world: those who know where Michel’le Brown got her name and those who don’t. Music fans of a generation ago are familiar with the singer-songwriter known as Michel’le who became famous, in part, for the contrast between her huge singing voice and her teeny tiny speech. Our Michel’le is also a creative personality, but her specialty is the visual arts. After four years in the arts program at Hope High School, she can thrill the kids at Cianci Head Start with drawings from children’s literature such as Cat in the Hat, Humpty Dumpty and The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. Her artistic talent has contributed to one of R2LP’s most important goals: getting children excited about books.

Working with children is not a new experience for Michel’le. In addition to helping out at home with her younger sisters and brother, she has worked at the day-care center in the Wanskuck Boys and Girls Club in Providence. In her Head Start classrooms, she has planned some of her own activities to share with the children.

After AmeriCorps, Michel’le plans to work for a while so she can save some money for college. She hopes to begin classes in the fall or next January and work toward an associate’s degree and a full-time job in an early childhood setting.

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“When I’m into something, I’m totally into it – all or nothing,” saysDanielle LaScola. For example, she says, when she was in high school at St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket she was famous for cheering the loudest at pep rallies. These days, still in Pawtucket, Danielle is giving everything she’s got to the children at Heritage Park YMCA Early Childhood Education Center, where she works in six classrooms.

The children at Heritage have reinforced Danielle’s desire to pursue a career in early learning. “I love their smiles and their innocence” and their unshakable optimism, she says.
After completing her AmeriCorps service, Danielle will have a newborn infant to care for. When the baby is old enough, Danielle says, she wants to return to college and study for a bachelor’s degree. She’s also hoping to find a part-time position in an early learning center.

Danielle has done some traveling, as far south as Florida and north to Canada, but Pawtucket has been home for most of her life. She grew up in the Darlington section of the city and has worked at the Ground Round restaurant and McCoy Stadium, one of the premier attractions in town.

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When Rosario Rodriguez was working at the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic, employees were invited to take firearms classes, using pistols at a firing range and learning how to handle a stun gun. Rosario decided to give it a try. She completed the classes but is happy now to have no further use for those skills.

While working full time in Santo Domingo, she also attended college classes at night, studying marketing and accounting. Aside from her work at the embassy, Rosario served for a while as a tourism research coordinator in the national office of statistics.

In 2003, after looking out a window of her home and seeing her SUV being stolen, Rosario decided it was time to move to the U.S.  She came at first by herself and was later joined by her husband, who left a job as an industrial engineer. They now have two sons: Luis, 5, is a student at the Robert L. Bailey Elementary School, and Leonardo, 4, attends the Salvation Army Head Start program.

Rosario is doing her AmeriCorps service at Bishop McVinney Early Childhood Center. Teacher Shereen Guariglia says, “Before Rosario was here, working in small groups seemed impossible, but now it allows us to give the children many opportunities to shine in smaller groups.” Rosario hopes to return to R2LP for a second AmeriCorps year and continue working with young children.

When she has some time for herself, Rosario loves to cook and read. She recommends The House of the Spirits, by Chilean author Isabel Allende.

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At 19 years old, Rosemary Cabrerahas already worked at Burger King, Walgreens and Macy’s, taken several classes at CCRI, and joined AmeriCorps. She has a particular interest in photography and journalism, and recently has started thinking about becoming a lawyer. On top of all that, she says “I am the most musical person you will know.”

Rosemary, who was born in Boston, has lived in Providence since she was 6. She has lots of family in the Dominican Republic and enjoys going there to visit every year, sometimes for a few weeks and sometimes for the whole summer.

At the South Providence and Washington Park libraries, Rosemary is involved in several programs for children of various ages. This is the first time she has worked with youngsters and her success has come as something of a surprise to her. “I don’t give myself enough credit,” she says, “I’m actually good with kids.” Child development and literacy training with AmeriCorps have come in handy at the libraries and in visits with home care providers. Completely fluent in English and in Spanish, Rosemary has also been able to put to use her impressive language skills.

Next year, Rosemary intends to concentrate on her college courses, aiming first for an associate’s degree from CCRI. And then? Maybe that law degree.

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Rosa Villarnovo
 has to be good with names in her work at Friendship Head Start. Each class has 15 or more children and Rosa spends time working with eight different teachers.  She enjoys her time with the youngsters, drawing on experience as a teacher for several years in her native Bolivia. In addition to her busy AmeriCorps schedule, Rosa is studying English at CCRI.

Rosa lives in Cranston with two daughters; Maria Dieny is a student at Park View Middle School and Sherlyn is at Eden Park Elementary School. Two more daughters, both graduates of Hope High School in Providence, are now in college: Maria Andrea, who is married and has a 2-year-old son Alexander, attends CCRI; Fatima is enrolled at Mitchell College in New London, Conn.

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Glorayma Ramos
 has always been a gymnast. From grade school through high school, she competed with a team; nowadays, she shares her skills with children at the Brown/Fox Point Early Childhood Education Center.  In her second year as an AmeriCorps member there, physical education tops the list of her favorite activities. Outside of Brown/Fox Point, she also is part of the Mamá a Mamá team, which provides support and a friendly environment for mothers, babies and toddlers.

A native of Puerto Rico and now a Cranston resident, Glorayma came to the U.S. with her husband and two children in 2006, the first time she had flown on an airplane. Her daughter, Gloria Santos, is a student at Cranston East High School; her son, Jorge, attends Gladstone Elementary School. Her son is a fifth-generation Jorge, following a tradition that includes Glorayma’s husband, as well as his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Glorayma is a very enterprising woman. After working as a licensed florist and a Head Start educator in Puerto Rico, she has nearly completed requirements for CDA certification, and also runs her own business. Actually it’s more of a ministry, she says, about her clown character Hallelujah, who performs at birthday parties and church functions: “I bring the message of love and faith to the children.”

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Monica Luna
 has been around children forever. In a family of seven girls and three boys in the Dominican Republic, she was among the older ones and quickly learned to help care for her younger siblings. When she was a teenager in high school, one of her favorite things to do – and a way to find some peace and quiet in the busy household – was to do her homework.

Monica went on to complete several years of college, including the three years it took to qualify for a  teaching license. She was a teacher for 17 years before moving in March 2009 with her two children to the U.S. to be with her husband, who had come to Rhode Island in 2000. In the years when she was raising the children by herself, taking classes and teaching, she learned to be self-sufficient, she says.

Monica’s work at South Providence Library ranges from activities with infants and toddlers to helping older children with their homework after school. (Still doing homework after all these years!) She also visits several home care providers each week to improve the literacy content of their programs. Monica particularly enjoys spending time with the children in the homes.

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Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Stephanie Sosahas traveled a circuitous route to Rhode Island. At the age of 1, her parents took her with them back to the Dominican Republic, where she lived until she was 6. After that, they returned to Brooklyn, where Stephanie grew up speaking English in school and Spanish at home, eventually graduating from Progress High School. Around that time, her parents retired and returned again to their homeland, but Stephanie came to Providence to live with an aunt.

Stephanie, who has completed a health-care interpreter certification program at CCRI, works at Hasbro Children’s Hospital with Project Launch, a valuable member of the team that helps parents of young children complete screening questionnaires.

Stephanie says the people in her family are unique. Among the evidence is this story: One morning, her father woke up and told her mother he’d had a dream that they would own a hotel. He believed this was their destiny and they proceeded to build a hotel. For six months, Stephanie was the first receptionist at Hotel Brisol in the Dominican Republic.

Stephanie has learned that she has a good ear for interpreting and she plans to make a career of it. She would like to complete a four-year degree program with a major in Spanish.

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One of the many thingsClaudia Galeano has learned since coming to the U.S. almost 10 years ago is how to cook. When she and her husband were both practicing law in the city of Manizales, in Colombia, a hired cook prepared the family’s meals. In those days, Claudia was a criminal lawyer working for the government and her husband was a prominent politician, an elected representative in the neighboring city of Villamaria. After political life became too dangerous, the family moved to Rhode Island, where Claudia’s sister was living.

They now live in Pawtucket with their two children.  Juan Jose, 17, is a student at the William M. Davies Jr. Career & Technical High School, in Lincoln, and Laura, 13, is at Slater Middle School.

Claudia works at Pawtucket Day Child Development Center, the first licensed early learning center in Rhode Island, with a history reaching back to the 19th century.  “I am very happy to be here,” Claudia says. “It was a good opportunity to grow as a person and learn new things. I love this country and the American people, too.”

And then she adds another item to her list, something she has in common with most of her colleagues from Colombia: “I love coffee, too.”

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When Shirly Castellanos was a girl in Colombia, she sometimes wondered why she could not have the same pretty clothes as other girls. Her grandmother told her it did not matter what she wore as long as her clothes were clean. Some years later, her older brother, who had been a protector to her, abruptly rejected their life of poverty and left home, never to be seen again. Shirly still hopes they will meet again some day.

Things have changed a lot for Shirly  since she moved to America with her husband and daughter in 2008. They came to Pawtucket to be near her father-in-law, who has lived in Central Falls for 40 years. Shirly’s daughter, Dayana Sancibier, is a kindergartner at Elizabeth Baldwin Elementary School, and Shirly now works at Children’s Friend Child Care Program. She enjoys a little time each week with the infants and toddlers as well as time with Maria Medina’s preschoolers.

In Colombia, Shirly worked 10 years as a cashier at a large discount store. For several years, she attended college from 7 a.m. till noon before working at the store from 3 p.m. until midnight every day.  Later, she worked as an administrative assistant in a hospital. One thing that has remained constant in her life is her faith.  “We should look at each other the way Jesus looked at us – as brothers and sisters,” she says.

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In our often-rambunctious team,Rochelle Patterson is among the quiet ones. But outside of work she might be one of the loudest, as a member of three choirs at Congdon Street Baptist Church. Every Sunday, she makes a joyful noise in the youth, gospel and senior choirs, the result of several practice sessions during the week. The choirs have also been a ticket for travel outside Rhode Island — to sing in a Harlem church, to visit the King Center in Atlanta and to see the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama.

Rochelle, who works at the Urban League Child Care Center, is one of seven children in her family. She lives with her mother, father and two brothers near Hope High School, where she played freshman basketball and went on to graduate in 2007. Experience caring for young family members at home helped her be ready to serve with Ready to Learn.

In addition to her choir trips, Rochelle has enjoyed traveling around much of the country. She has visited relatives in Massapequa, Long Island, and in Chicago, and had a blast at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., a high school graduation present from her parents.

Of all the places she’s been, Spelman College, in Atlanta, may have been her favorite. She hopes someday to be there not as a visitor but enrolled as a student.

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Ready to Learn Providence has found numerous ways to put Dan Johnsen’s varied work and personal experience to use. “R2LP appealed to me initially because of my background as a teacher and parent,” Dan says. “I wasn’t expecting to use my editing skills as well.”

Early in his career, Dan spent 10 years at Moses Brown School in Providence, teaching kindergarten through third grade. “I learned a lot from some excellent teachers there,” he says. “Every young teacher should have that opportunity.”

Dan then worked for a few years as a real estate appraiser, a job with flexible hours that let him spend time caring for his baby daughter at home. Later, he took a job as an editor with The Providence Journal, a position he held for 19 years.

“I really enjoyed working there,” he says. “It was a happening place, something new every day.” But with the newspaper business struggling, Dan found himself part of a major downsizing at The Journal just over a year ago.

At R2LP, Dan is assigned to the Data and Research group. “Everything that happens at R2LP is built on data,” he notes. “I have been involved in many ways – from the filing cabinets to our electronic database.”

It didn’t take long, however, for R2LP to discover Dan’s strong writing and editing skills. He’s been called on to read and review grant proposals, press releases and website additions. It was Dan who suggested this page on AmeriCorps members, and he’s written most of the profiles.

Dan’s two children are in college – Molly is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, and Homer is a sophomore at the University of Vermont.

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Don’t expect Vielka Batista to tell you how old she is. “I have no age. I’m always young, always happy. My spirit is young, so I will never get old.” And our AmeriCorps members half her age will tell you it’s true: she seems to have an endless supply of energy.

Vielka, in her second year of service, works at Friendship Head Start, where she especially enjoys reading to the children. Whether sharing a book in English or Spanish, she keeps their attention with drama and humor.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Vielka worked there as a teacher for many years. She also attended Universidad Tecnologica de Santiago and graduated with a CPA degree, working as an accountant for several years. Now she is studying English at CCRI.

The oldest of Vielka’s three children, a daughter, is a URI graduate pursuing a master’s degree in special education. Her older son is a table-tennis champion who frequently travels to compete in other countries. Her younger son is a senior at Cooley Health & Science Technology High School in Providence.

Vielka is one of five R2LP members in the Mamá a Mamá program, a team that meets weekly with mothers of infants and toddlers to provide support and socialization.

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In the R2LP classroom at CCRI, a few children arrived in September speaking only Spanish. They quickly began to learn some English, but there were times every day when they would have felt lost withoutPatricia Castillo to gently help them understand instructions or talk to other children.  Head teacher Bethany Carpenter calls Patricia “a talented educator” and marvels at her commitment to the children and her success in supporting the relationship between parent and child. While helping Spanish-speakers build vocabulary in their first language, she also helps them learn English.

A native of Peru, Patricia came to Providence about seven years ago and lives here with her husband, Martin, two daughters, ages 12 and 4, and her mother. In Peru, she studied early childhood education in college and plans to continue that education here. Patricia also intends to keep improving her English language skills (and hopes to learn why T doesn’t sound like T when we casually pronounce words like university and forty). Eventually, she hopes to have a career working with children, perhaps as a counselor or a social worker.

This summer, Patricia and her family will return to Peru to visit her father and her husband’s family. She’s sure to visit El Burrito, one of her favorite spots in Lima, where you can eat, dance and sing all in the same place.

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Working with a class of 18 preschool children can be fun, especially when you know what you’re doing. Claribel Correabrings years of college study and experience as a mother to her work at Cianci Head Start. She says she enjoys everything there and has a special interest in helping children “regulate their behavior.” In fall training, AmeriCorps members learned how to help children develop more self-control and become more ready to learn.

Claribel, a native of Puerto Rico, was a student at Universidad Del Este, where she earned 95 credits majoring in early childhood education. She wants to have that work approved by education officials here and has completed one of the most important steps — obtaining a transcript in English from the college.

“Maravilloso” — marvelous — is how Claribel describes her son and daughter, both students at Harry Kizirian Elementary School. Her experience as a parent has been valuable in the Mamá a Mamá program, in which five AmeriCorps members serve as mentors for young mothers seeking some friendly support in the art of parenting.

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“I wasn’t half the person I am before the birth of my daughter, Berenice,” says Veronica Castro when reflecting on her growth since graduating from the Providence Academy for International Studies in 2007. “Being a young mother can be very challenging, but my daughter, who will be two in February, has taught me so much.”

Adding significantly to her understanding of children, she says, are the courses she’s taking as an R2LP AmeriCorps member, particularly Mind in the Making, which covers early childhood development and learning.

As an AmeriCorps member, Veronica works at the R2LP offices, assisting in several programs with administrative and organizational tasks. “The work I’m given is so much more varied and important than I had expected it to be,” she says.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Veronica moved to New York City when she was five and then to Rhode Island at 13. Sadly, her mother died just three years later, causing Veronica to move in with an aunt and attend a new school. “It was a difficult time,” she concedes, but one that clearly made her stronger.

Veronica plans to apply for a second year in the AmeriCorps program, but also hopes to begin taking courses next year – toward certification as a medical assistant – with her AmeriCorps scholarship money.

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The name his Nigerian parents gave him is Olurotimi Akinnusotu, but his friends at Ready to Learn call him Timi. When asked to describe his dream vacation, Timi, a lifelong resident of Providence and graduate of Hope High School, imagined a beach house in Puerto Rico. But his fantasy began this way: “My dream is to be successful in life and that everyone around me has everything they need.”

Timi’s pursuit of his dream currently includes AmeriCorps service at John Hope Settlement House Child Care Center and work on weekends at Brandon School and Residential Treatment Center, in Natick, Mass. About John Hope he said, “I love my site,” especially first thing in the morning when the children run up to greet him with a hug.

Timi (sounds like Timmy) received a degree from CCRI in May 2009 and hopes to be enrolled at Rhode Island College in the fall of 2010. As he continues his education and work with children, Timi looks forward to becoming a teacher.

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Clarissa Aleman
 knows education as a teacher and as a student. In addition to her work in a classroom at the Roger Williams Day Care Center and helping teach a class to AmeriCorps members, she is also busy as a student, taking a math class to prepare for the G.E.D. degree and another class for her Child Development Associate  (CDA) certificate.

Clarissa is in her second year of AmeriCorps service. By the end of this term, she expects to be ready for a full-time job working with young children. She says she is a person “who knows what she wants and will go out and get it, not stay home waiting.”

Born in the Dominican Republic, she came to the U.S. when she was 22, living in Puerto Rico and New York City before coming to Providence several years ago. Clarissa has three children, including a son at Roger Williams Middle School, and two grandchildren.

At Ready to Learn, Clarissa is our master baker, often bringing in beautiful cakes she decorates at home.

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Ely Mateo
 studied tourism as a college student in Puerto Rico. It paid off in an unexpected way when the top students took part in a raffle for a free trip to Washington D.C.  — and she won.

One of the highlights in Washington was the National Gallery of Art, a place that inspired her interest in design and creativity. Art activities are still a favorite of hers, and she has enjoyed sharing her talents with children at the Genesis Childcare Center.

Ely, now in her second year of AmeriCorps service, works with two groups, a class of 3-year-olds and a class of 4-year-olds. In addition to the art areas, she enjoys reading and singing with the children. She says one of the best things about Genesis is that there are children from so many different countries.

At home, she demonstrates her artistic flair with extra attention to interior design. Helping to make sure everything looks good are her husband, Richard, and 5-year-old son, Bryan, a kindergartner at Alfred Lima school in Providence.

What does she see for herself in five to ten years? She’d like to be an art teacher and have three more children.

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It’s fitting that Emma Gross works at a library because reading is one of her favorite things to do. Also high on her list is eating.

At the Smith Hill branch of the Providence Community Library, Emma leads literacy activities, reads all the children’s literature she can, searches the Internet for fun activities, and offers homework help to older children after school.  Librarian Alan Gunther uses the word “incredible” to describe what Emma can do with a flannel board. She also makes five or more visits each week to home child-care providers. “I love reading and talking to the kids,” she says.

But Emma doesn’t limit herself to the world of children. She has a degree in English and Medieval Studies from Wesleyan University, where she graduated in 2008.  She says she loves the work of Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote his poetic stories long ago in a kind of English that would seem like a foreign language to most of us.

And then there’s food. “I’m kind of a food snob,” she says, explaining that she’d rather not eat than eat bad food. To clarify: diners are good food; burger chains are bad.

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After two years of college in Albany, N.Y., Jabraya Tanksley decided it was time for a change but wasn’t sure what to do next — until a professor of child psychology told her about AmeriCorps.  After considering various programs and locations, Jabraya set her sights on R2LP and Providence, moving here just in time for the first meeting in August.

Jabraya works with a class of 16 children at Beautiful Beginnings Child Care Center, on Elmwood Avenue, helping them learn with activities that emphasize play and conversation. With that experience and the classes she’s taking as part of the R2LP program, she’ll be well on her way toward her new career goal: teaching in her own classroom.

Where Jabraya goes next is anybody’s guess. Her mom recently moved to Georgia, she has relatives in Canada and she loves New York City. She likes Providence and Albany, but says she’d prefer a place with a faster pace, and wherever she goes there has to be good music and a chance to dance.

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Based at the Mount Pleasant branch of Providence Community Library, Sherley Fleurima (shown seated with colleagues) regularly visits three home child-care providers and two child-care centers to help children get involved with books and develop literacy skills. At the library, she works with groups of 10 to 12 children on reading-related activities.

A graduate of La Salle Academy, in Providence, where she was a sprinter on the track team, Sherley studied business management at the University of Hartford and received an associate’s degree in 2006. She expects to use the education stipend from one or two years of AmeriCorps service toward the last semester of work she needs for a B.A. degree.

Sherley has lived in Providence most of her life. Her parents came to the U.S. from Haiti and the family speaks a Haitian Creole dialect at home. Her father’s family is originally from Cuba. Also at home are her sister, 10, and her golden retriever, Rusty. Sherley says Rusty is a good dog.

One of the things she likes best about her work this year is playing outside with the children at the McAuley Village child care center.

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A recent graduate of Syracuse University, Marquitta McNairsays going away from home to attend college was “a great experience”  that she would recommend to others. While earning a degree in psychology at Syracuse, Marquitta made lots of friends she expects to remain close to for the rest of her life.

Most of Marquitta’s family live in Freeport, on Long Island, but she has an aunt in West Greenwich. Marquitta lives with her aunt, a sister, and her 18-month-old nephew, Jonathan, who is the first person she sees most days.

Four days a week, Marquitta works in a pre-K classroom with 18 children at Mount Hope/East Side YMCA Child Care Center. “From the first day, I felt very welcome there,” she says. One of the things she likes most about the work she does is being able to learn more about child development in her activities with the children.

Several years from now she would like to have completed graduate school with a master’s degree and be working with children, perhaps as a school psychologist or in her own early learning center.

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Elizabeth Torres
 is one of three AmeriCorps members working withProject Launch, a program aimed at promoting the physical, mental and emotional health of young children in Providence. At St. Joseph Hospital, Liz helps parents complete assessments on the development and health of their children. She also facilitates communication between the medical staff and parents who speak only Spanish.

“I love helping families right at a time when they are in need – not just children, but parents too,” she says.

Liz, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, has been in the U.S. for more than 20 years. Soon after her arrival, alone in Boston at age 21, she began working as a housekeeper in a hotel and quickly became a supervisor. She has also worked in a property management office and as a dental assistant. She learned to speak English after work, she says, by watching the news and an instructional TV program called Follow Me, which featured conversations about everyday situations. Liz has been a huge help in our work on these AmeriCorps profiles, serving as interpreter in several interviews.

Liz has two daughters, one at the Paul Cuffee School in Providence and one training to be a medical assistant. After AmeriCorps, Liz says she might apply the college credits and educational stipend she’s earned through AmeriCorps toward a degree in social work.

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As the mother of four boys aged 1 to 21, and as a former volunteer at the Cianci Head Start Center, Andrea Cabrera came to R2LP with some very real experience in early child care. Still, she says, she’s amazed at how much she has learned about early childhood development in her classes and work as an AmeriCorps member.

Andrea, who is fluent in English and Spanish, assists in R2LP’s school readiness programs for home child-care providers and families. “I love being busy and I enjoy helping people get what they need,” she says. “I like that everyone here is so focused on the learning of young children.”

Andrea was born in the Dominican Republic but moved to Venezuela with her mother when she was 11. It was there that she completed high school and a program in office administration at a college in Caracas. In 1990, married with a young baby, Andrea arrived in Rhode Island speaking virtually no English.

Learning a second language, working at jewelry companies in the area, and mothering a growing family have kept Andrea busy over the past two decades. As for the future, Andrea says that thanks to what she has learned at R2LP, she is now considering a career in early child care and education.

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As an elementary student in Van Nuys, Calif., David Torres and all of the children in his public school were taught in English and in Spanish. David, whose parents came to the U.S. from El Salvador before he was born, says he’d like to see more children have the same opportunity.

As a member of the Project Launch team in Providence, at the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center, David is part of a process that seeks to provide early medical interventions for children who need them. He is also available to help Spanish-speaking parents at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital when needed.

Although reluctant at first to work in a hospital setting, David now says he enjoys “being in the middle of everything,” and meeting a lot of health and education professionals. In the future, he’d like to work as a case worker for the state Department of Children, Youth and Families.

David is a second-year member of AmeriCorps at Ready to Learn. He and his partner, Michael, have a dream of someday building a home that is completely off the power grid. Meanwhile, he claims to have watched more than 18,000 YouTube videos.

 

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