Maribella* opened her book, and read aloud in class. At the beginning of the year, she struggled to remember the sounds to each letter. Now, she opens the Dr. Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham, and tears through the pages, reading faster and faster with every turn.
While it may be commonplace to see children take massive strides in reading, in other ways, Maribella’s story is unique. Pre-K and Kindergarten students of Wonder Club Early Learning Center generally come from lower-income families in Lancaster City, and some are recent refugees to the States.
However, Maribella’s connection to Wonder Club is even closer to Water Street. Back in 2019 her family came to us as guests in our Residential Shelter. At 3 years old, the new environment, faces and routine left her struggling to keep up.
“It was something new for her, because we are used to being by ourselves in our own apartment,” adds her Mom. Soon, her family decided on Wonder Club as a positive next step. Maribella came in nervously, sitting quietly, and afraid to ask questions
or play with the other children.
And like many parents, mom was anxious too. “Just to let her go, it was like I was having separation anxiety, because she was growing up, ”explained her mom. So instead of starting full time, Wonder Club worked with Maribella’s family to create an individualized solution. They hoped, over time, Maribella and her family would finally know they were in a safe place. She started out with half-days twice a week. But soon enough, Maribella was on her way to five full-days every week. And now, her attitude couldn’t be more different.
With a wide smile spread across her face, Maribella sprints up the stairs each morning. She’s ready to see her friends, and excited to start class with her kindergarten teacher. When she comes back to the Mission, Wonder Club is all she talks about, her mom says.
Staff have seen a difference too. “She has such a desire to learn, she’s like a sponge,” says her teacher, Mr. Lee. “And she’s reading, she’s excited about reading, and a teacher can’t ask for more than that.”
Full of questions and energy, Mr. Lee says it’s not so much that she’s changed since she first began, more that “she feels free here and confident…she’s become more herself.”
As he explains it, each child “has a God-
given need to learn and have purpose.” Maribella is finding hers at Wonder Club, but mostly, she’s just being a kid, and really enjoying learning for the first time.
Thank you to all of the incredible supporters of Water Street Mission, and Wonder Club. Today, children from all around Lancaster City are learning how loved they are by God, and learning to love education!
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