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March 27, 2024

Embracing Families, Communities, and Culture

When I consider the question, ‘How did I get here,’ what comes to mind are strong female role models, critical experiences of marginalization, family support for education, and my willingness to be vulnerable in public.
– Nadiyah Taylor, in Stories of Resistance

Today’s exchange is thanks to Monica R. Wells, family and community administrator for the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska.

Growing up in North Omaha, my family and community meant everything to me. My mother would sing gospel songs throughout the house, reminding me to stay rooted in my faith. My neighbors would cheer me on each time I left the house in my cheerleading uniform or joined a new club at school. The owner of the local corner store would give us $5 for each “A” on our report card, and we took our money to our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Time Out Chicken, to order a Big Bob with fries and a strawberry drink. This encouragement, these motivating whispers, traveled alongside me each day I entered the classroom. In my moments of doubt, I knew that I had an entire community cheering me on and my faith to get me through.

I strongly believe that family and community are the bridge to academic and lifetime success. Embracing the families, communities, and culture in which our children represent and grow up in is imperative to their educational success. Learning about their culture, shopping in the stores in their communities, and tasting their favorite foods gives us a glimpse into the world they hold close to their hearts.

Through my work as an early childhood professional, I want to inspire the students and educators I work with to be happy with who they are; encourage them to hold tight to the beliefs, traditions, and history of their family, community, and culture; and empower them every day to work hard in their classrooms.

Strong, authentic relationships between our families, students, and educators are key. We must speak life into our students, cheer them on, teach them the skills, and provide the tools they need to be prepared for the future. We must show examples of the power, importance, and necessity of community.

Just one more week to share your thoughts on family engagement in the joint survey conducted by The CAYL Institute and Exchange Press. Respond today!

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