For Anastasia, being a good parent means being a strong advocate—not just for herself and her children, but for all families in her community.
When Anastasia’s son, Joshua, started at Educare Chicago, the Ounce high-quality birth to five school on Chicago’s South Side, her family was going through a rough period. Nine months pregnant with her daughter, Emani, Anastasia was coping with financial, housing, and relationship hardships, all the while fighting to stay on course with her college education. She soon learned from Joshua’s teachers and Educare staff that he was struggling with disabilities, and later that he was diagnosed with autism. This news came as a shock. “As a mom, you start to wonder—is there something that I did wrong?” she says.
With support from staff and teachers at Educare, Anastasia gained access to the knowledge and resources she needed to keep moving forward. She formed a strong, trusting relationship with Educare’s Disability Coordinator, who connected her to critical services and supports for Joshua, and taught her how to advocate effectively for his success. Anastasia also received the mental health counselling she needed to stay strong for her children, and to continue on the path towards college graduation. “My Educare family has helped me through a lot of the hard times I’ve been through—emotionally, mentally, physically, financially—by being understanding, being loving and providing different resources for me and my family,” she says. “When Joshua came to Educare, I was frustrated, tired, angry and scared. My whole demeanor and attitude has changed.”
Since Joshua transitioned from Educare and into the Chicago Public School System, Anastasia has remained empowered and determined to fight for his success. When Joshua’s bus service to elementary school was cancelled unexpectedly without notice or explanation, she knew it was her job to stand up for him—and for other children in her community. “I got in touch with advocates and different organizations. I reached out to staff at Educare and to the administration at Joshua’s school. I got tremendous support from people who were able to help me get all the email addresses of the Board members at CPS.” She was also connected to Chicago’s ABC 7 local news, and, on behalf of Joshua and all children depending on resources for special education, she made sure her voice was heard.
Today, Anastasia is a recognized leader in her community and is just months away from completing her college degree. Her daughter, Emani, is currently enrolled at Educare, where Anastasia was recently elected as President of the Parenting Committee. She is also a member of the Educare Chicago Alumni Network, which supports Educare alumni parents in maintaining their involvement in their children’s education and empowers parents as leaders in their families, schools and communities. “I’ve been able to transition out of poverty with the help of Educare. One of the biggest things that I’m going to continue to express while I’m here is that one of the best ways to get a child out of poverty is to help that parent get out of poverty. The best way to do that is to make sure parents have access to training or education.”
Beyond Educare, Anastasia is determined to help other parents learn from her experience, and is working to launch WURTHEE, an organization to inspire and support mothers everywhere. “This isn’t just about me and my children. When they say it takes a village to raise a child—it really does. We all need help from teachers, places like Educare, and other organizations,” she says. “Having a strong, solid and consistent support system is key to overcoming the obstacles that come your way in life and as a parent. I saw a dire need for more support in my community and I thought, there’s got to be something I can do to connect everyone together.”