Our Youth Development work is both varied and expansive. Helping children and their families reach their fullest potential and a greater sense of well-being is at the core of the Y’s mission, history and purpose. Our work with young people plays out in a wide variety of ways, settings and ages, but it is always purposeful and focused on whole child (or young person) development, with enriching opportunities and experiences guided by highly trained Y professionals.
This is abundantly evident in the words of Rebecca Zajaczkowski, whose two daughters, Gabby and Emma, have graduated from the Betty Sterner Y Preschool in Catonsville. Her daughter Gabby, now in 4th grade, was two years old when she started and went through every classroom!
Take a look:
Dear Catonsville Y Preschool,
Today is our last day with you all. It has been a great ride for 7 years. You all have done so much to help my children become who they are, and I thank you for that! Gabby and Emmy will be moving to a different school and will no longer be around, but you all will never be forgotten. I wanted to give some special thanks to a few of you:
Mr. Bob: Thanks so much for being so positive and also being so accommodating and helpful. You are a great director!
Ms. Sherri: Thanks for always being ready to answer my questions and find yet another form for me! Ha! I need to organize my life.
Ms. Esther: Thanks for helping both of my kids transition into school life. I know that Emmy was on the quiet side. However, a special thanks for putting up with Gabby! What a sass!! I give you the credit for laying down the law and helping me win that battle! Ha!!
Ms. Shawna: Thanks for taking care of both my girls. They loved your hugs and you really made them feel special.
Ms. Mita: Although you never actually taught my girls, you were always positive and encouraging to them. Thank you for your kindness.
Ms. Tina: Thanks so much for helping both my girls. But a special thanks for all of your encouraging and kind words as I went through a very trying time with the death of my mother. You really helped to put some peace into my heart.
Ms. Carrie (room 4): Thank you for taking care of my M and M. You have such a fun approach with the kids and they love it.
Ms. Carrie: Thanks for taking care of my kids before and after school. Go Steelers! Boo Patriots!!
Ms. Natasha: Oh… Ms. Natasha… that smile and that laugh. Your personality is infectious. You have the perfect balance of nurturing fun and no-nonsense in taking care of kids. Both my girls learned a lot from you and truly love you.
Ms. Vonda: You are like the mother hen. You take care of all of the kids… and adults!!! It is so evident that you truly love every child who walks through that door. I will miss our conversations and laughs.
Ms. Cheryl: you have been a Godsend. Thank you so much for preparing my children for school. As a busy mother, I often stress if I do enough to help with my kids’ education. I know that ultimately it is my responsibility, however, you have made it a little easier to breathe. I know that when Gabby got to school, she was ready. And I know that it will be the same for Emmy. Thanks for your wonderful and creative lessons and all of your hard work.
And to everyone else that has been a part of my children’s lives. A huge thanks! You mean the world to me and my family! Thanks to all and good luck in the future!
Rebecca Zajaczkowski and family
(Bob Smith and his team of amazing early childhood professionals at the Betty Sterner Y Preschool)
This letter also highlights an important point that has struck me for a long time. A lot of Ys and Y colleagues across the country refer to most of their work with young people as “Child Care.” In fact, that’s what it’s called on their website and in their program materials. I think that’s a terrible mis-characterization, as it implies that our work with young people is simply about “taking care of them,” or essentially babysitting. Well, to me, taking care of a child is absolutely essential, but it’s also the minimum standard. Our work is at a much higher level, focusing on development, enrichment and well-being. That’s why we don’t call it child care and never will. If you want to signal to the market that what you’re doing is only child care, then that’s fine. However, that’s not what we do at our Y. Ms. Zajaczkowski certainly highlights the great care we’ve given to her children, but she also speaks to the great work we’ve done to prepare them for school. To me, it’s not an either/or choice. We do both!
Many thanks to the Zajaczkowski family for trusting us with the critically important early childhood development of their precious children and for taking the time to write such a thoughtful note. Thanks also to Robert Smith, Regional Director of Preschool, for his excellent leadership and for the entire team at the Betty Sterner Y Preschool for their professionalism, love and dedication to the cause!
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland