Thursday, September 20, 2012

Devastating Cuts on the Horizon for Our Littlest Learners

Like most parents, for me, September signals the end of the summer and getting back into the
swing of things. And while we’re checking homework, packing school lunches, and going to
school open houses, Members of Congress are getting back to work too, talking to constituents
and other Congressmen and women to figure out priorities.

One big issue looms: the national budget. Unless Congress finds a solution to our nation’s debt
problem by Jan. 1, there will be across-the-board cuts to all federal programs. This is bad news.
In Washington State, an all-cuts approach would mean programs like Working Connections
Child Care, a program that provides childcare to low-income Washington parents and is mainly
funded by federal money, would be cut. A cut to programs like Working Connections Child Care
would be a devastating blow to families like mine who depend on it in order to work or go to
school and create a better future for our children. Also on the chopping block is Head Start. Head Start is a vital preschool program to children of low income families, and those with disabilities. 

My child, who was found to need special education services when she was 3, was able to have access to Head Start. After 1.5 years in the program she started kindergarten with no need for special education services.
The comprehensive, whole-child preschool approach made a tremendous difference in the life of my
child and thousands like her. However, many children who need early learning don’t have access to it. If
Congress doesn’t find a solution, 1,400 kids in Washington state would be cut from Head Start. It would
be detrimental to the future of the children in our lives.

We need to continue to invest in our families and littlest learners. Let’s stand together and
tell Congress we cannot afford across-the-board cuts. Contact your U.S. representative and
senators by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Let them know a budget solution
by Jan. 1 is the only way to avoid shortchanging our children with unfair cuts to programs that
really work. Demand their action now to support our kids’ success.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hands On Advocacy

As one of the 3 hats I wear for a job, being a Coordinator for Parents United is one of them. I'm very lucky, that all 3 of my jobs mesh so well together. I work with Parents and get them to stand up for things they believe in around Early Learning especially, but other issues as well. Advocacy is what I do!!

My best friend and partner in crime, Kylee Allen, is a Coordinator with me of Parents United. We have a lot of fun... And we were really wet!

Parents United is an opportunity for parents across the state to come together to learn more about state policies affecting children and families and to take action. Parents United convenes training's and assists parents in learning how the legislative process works, and what they can do to be a part of it. We held our first HANDS ON ADVOCACY TRAINING on Monday at the Capitol. It was a huge success!

We were joined by about 20 parents and 8 kids from across Washington State. We started the morning with introductions and getting familiar with the Capitol map. We then took a tour of the Legislative Building and learned history and facts about the building and the Democratic Process.  Each parent had help figuring out who their legislators are and found the location of each of their offices. We stopped in to leave notes to their legislators around issues such as Apple Health for Kids, Working Connections, TANF, ECEAP, Charter Schools and any other issues they felt were important to them. 

We joined in with the Revenue Coalitions Rally with SEIU 925, and many other organizations calling for Revenue and Accountability. We think this was the kids' favorite part; dancing to music and having their pictures taken with a giant balloon of the Earth. 

We ended our day by attending a hearing in the Senate for WAKids, (The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) helps ensure that children in Washington get a great start in kindergarten.) where one of our parents testified on the importance of continuing the implementation of WAKids. 

We wore bright orange shirts that were donated by the League of Education Voters that said "KIDS FIRST".  We were definitely recognized and stood out where ever we went that day. We've had great feedback from our parents that attended that it was a very informational, fun filled day! We are looking forward to doing it again soon! 

This was an amazing day, and just another reminder why I LOVE MY JOBS! 

For more information about Parents United and how to get involved check out our FaceBook Page @ 

or email .

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Adventures in Activism

I had another first yesterday! My first participation in a hearing being disrupted by a protest!!

Day 1 of the Special Session kicked off in Olympia yesterday, and I was there, ready and willing to participate in a House Ways and Means committee hearing on the budget. After driving around for nearly a 1/2 hour looking for parking, I made my way to the Cherberg buiding. Crossing the campus, I was amazed by the amount of people there, buses, 3 different rally points, and about 1,000 people on the steps of the Capitol listening to John Lennon.  I had an amazing testimony written to present, and found myself standing next to a fellow colleague, among many other familiar faces. The room became filled, which is quite normal for a Ways and Means hearing. Frank and I (my colleague) made mention that the turnout was smaller than expected though. We spoke a little too soon. Shortly after they announced that a second room was opened up for overflow, the halls started to sing with "Let Us In, Let Us In".... Then, came pounding on the doors.

In this video you can hear over the chattering of the people in the room, the rhythm to the pounding on the door. I will say, some of my videos are quite shaky. Not just from the overdose of caffeine, but I will admit I was a little nervous. Being inside that room, hearing the noise outside, I really did think that at any moment a crowd was going to burst through the door and trample all of us calm people like a heard of elephants. So yes, they are a little shaky!

Let Us IN! (Click on the blue links for Videos)

Shortly after that, from the back of the room, came a crowd of people, chanting, and yelling. One demonstrator who was leading the way, was shouting "Mic Check", to which the crowd repeated everything he said.

"These Cuts will hurt kids,  These Cuts will hurt families, These Cuts will hurt Educators". He went on for probably about 5 mins. Here's a 2 min video of the protest.  This video ends in the leader of the demonstration calling for a Citizens' Arrest of the Legislature, complete with handcuffs.

Citizen's Arrest

Tax the Rich and Save the Poor!

The hearing ended up being shut down because of the State Fire Marshal coming in and declaring the building over occupancy. So....

The crowd headed outside, where they stood outside the window, chanting, complete with a drum circle, "Save Higher Ed", and "You say CUT BACK, we say FIGHT BACK!".

This is them walking away momentarily. This is hard to hear, but they are saying Save Higher Ed. You can bet your next child, when I go back to the Capitol later this week, I will have my GOOD camera with me!

Save Higher Ed

 It was an absolute amazing demonstration of the power of a united voice. I was happy to be standing there, watching this demonstration unfold before my eyes, and was very proud of what they were doing. However, they could have done without some of the expletives, and threats to legislators. Some of the legislators, you could tell were intrigued, some of them were just straight up irritated. I wasn't irritated at this display, until it postponed the hearing, it didn't start for 40 minutes after the regularly scheduled time. There were 183 people signed up to testify on behalf of Public Safety, Healthcare and Education. What a turnout! I can't wait to see what the rest of this session holds!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Throwing out the Safety Net

Sunday morning cup of coffee, check. Laughter of children, check. Thankful for positive things in my life, check. Safety net, ummmm working on that.

It's weird. With the transformation to my new job, a lot has changed in my life in the last 3 weeks. I went from being someone struggling to pay the bills, to someone who is actually going to have money to put in a savings account. Not only did I get a new job, Josh has recently been promoted at work, and is making more money as well. I'm realizing though that if I did not have the ability to find and seek out resources, I would not be making that step from someone who relied on social services to someone doing it all on their own. Of course, I still have some things to figure out, and that will come in time; like Health Care. Baby steps I keep telling myself.

I no longer qualify for a child care subsidy, I no longer receive food stamps, I haven't qualified for medical for a long time. I'm now having to figure out things like where my kids are going to go after school on the days I do have to work away from home. The safety net of knowing they could always go to daycare was just that, SAFE. I work from home mostly now and my schedule is different every week. With the limited childcare available in our area, I can't quite afford a full time spot to have for them to only be a drop in basis, and the child care can't hold a spot for my kids when there are so many others that do need that full time care. It's a balancing act.

I struggled when I thought about taking this job. It was an extreme opportunity. One I never thought I would be possible of. It is only a 6 month position because it's grant funded, so the option to not continue the grant is there. However, it's an offer I couldn't refuse. 6 months of the experience and 6 months of 3 times the pay I was making before. How could I say no? I struggled with it, because I've had that safety net of ALWAYS knowing that my child care wasn't an issue. I had my co payments, that I knew that I could afford, but the subsidy took a weight off of my shoulder. I KNEW there was a certain amount of money coming in for food stamps that could ONLY be used for food. So I didn't have to worry about feeding my family, I knew that support was there. Of course, I still had to budget that money to make sure we made it through the whole month. I seriously was living on less than $1,200 a month to pay all of my bills. $600 of that went directly to rent. I paid water, garbage, electricity and phone every month. We couldn't afford cable, so we went with the $8 Netflix luxury. And that was splurging., Throw in everything that the kids need, and GAS. That doesn't leave much for anything else, let alone food. I never realized how much of a feeling of security that gave me.

So when taking this job I realized I would be tripling my income but also my expenses would be doubled. I had to really think about whether it was worth it. It TOTALLY is. The sense of accomplishment that I have for myself is amazing. I've come a long ways. I never thought that I would have been a divorced single mom trying to support 3 kids on such low wages. That was NOT the dream I had for myself. But I made it through. I'm now a married self sufficient woman who is productively giving back to society.

The day I got the job I was talking to one of my favorite people Lori. I was elated that I was being given this opportunity but I was scared. I immediately went in to fight or flight mode, "oh no, I'm going to finally lose my childcare, I'm going to lose my food stamps, this is a big step Lori!" I will never forget her response to me that day. "April", she said "You can buy food with green money." I totally can.
For the last two weeks I've sat down and budgeted out my meals, I've grocery shopped around at the stores for the best deals. I did that anyway before, but there's something different about it now. Something I can't explain.

I just can't help but think about all the people who might get a .25 cent raise and get kicked off of the services they are receiving. If we had only been going off of Josh getting a raise, we would STILL be struggling to pay all of the bills, and we would have lost our subsidy for child care, which is what made it so I could work. My goal is to get ourselves to the point that if my job isn't extended in 6 months, we won't struggle, and we will be in a place that we can still maintain our lifestyle on one income.

My goal is to NEVER have to rely on a social service program again. My goal is to continue to advocate for those less fortunate: for the poor and the homeless, for the sick and the elderly because I KNOW just how important those services are to the people that need them. I know that there are people that abuse the system, I can name 5 off the top of my head. But I also know many more people like myself, who have used the resources available to them, as a stepping stone to a better life. I am breaking that cycle of poverty, I will be the change that I need to see in the world. I AM THE CHANGE.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Today is the day. Day 1. November 1st, 2012. The day I no longer am eligible for receiving any assistance from any sort of social service program. A day I have waited and worked hard for, for 10 years. 10 years is a long time. And it's not that I have been on any service for that long, but 10 years ago, is when I became a mother, and things got hard. Harder than I ever imagined. Harder than I had ever planned for. I never imagined that at the age of 21, I would be a young, divorced, single mother, attending college and working 2 jobs. I never imagined that the life I thought I had CHOSEN for myself, would end up the way it did. Along the way, I've had to rely on social programs such as Food Stamps, Working Connections Child Care, and Medicaid for Health care for my children. But I am, I believe, what those programs are set in place for. To use as a stepping stone to be where I am today.

Today, I am a mother of 3, married, working full time with a degree in Child Development.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Look at me GROW!

Today, I took lots of deep breaths. You know, the heavy sighing kind of breath, when something so amazing happens to you that you can't believe it's real? That's kind of how I've been for the last 24 hours. Not really able to breathe, but in the most amazing sort of way. I am starting a new job. It's not just any job though, it's my dream job. I can't even describe how I feel, but more than anything, I am so proud of myself. That's not something I normally feel.

Over the past two years, I have really come in to my own. I've been learning how to be me, and to be proud of the me that I am. I've learned what I like, what I don't like, what I love, and what I want to be when I grow up. I've learned what I'm good at, what I'm not so good at, and what I'm GREAT at. Life has been a roller coaster of a ride over the last couple of years for me. But this last year, has been extra tough. I lost a dear friend to Breast Cancer, and it really made me re-evaluate my own life. I married my long time boyfriend of 8 years, and the father of 2 of my children, and nearly divorced him before our first year of marriage was up. During all of the turmoil that came of that, I still continued to keep on doing what I had finally found that I am so passionate about. Advocating. Parent Empowerment and Early Learning. I was blessed with an awesome opportunity to become the Coordinator of the Parent Ambassador program in February.

The Parent Ambassador program has changed my life. Even though life at home was rough, my director and mentor, and friend Joel, told me that if I needed to take time off from the PA program to deal with things at home, all I had to do was say the word. I told him that the work of the PA program was what gave me my sanity at the moment, and I didn't want to give up any of it. And it's true. As many hours, and stress I put in to a lot of the work I do, it's so rewarding to me, that it makes it all worth while. Over the last year, I have been a part of many committees, organizations, and events. I was a Policy Council member for my Head Start program, I was on the advisory committee for WaKids, a 9 million dollar bill that became law this year in the legislature; I serve on my county's Early Learning Coalition, I am a member of the Early Learning Action Alliance, have become more involved in my school board, was the president of my children's PTO, and too many other things to think of right now. But it all started because I was "just a parent". Those words mean something more to me than I ever thought they would.

"JUST A PARENT" is no longer part of my vocabulary, and when I hear other parents say it now, there's like a spring loaded trigger in my head that snaps and goes in to advocate role. I instantly want to have a conversation with the person saying that they are "just a parent!" 3 years ago, I started as my Policy Council Representative for my local Head Start program, from there I became a Parent Ambassador, then the Coordinator for the Parent Ambassador program, which led me to all these amazing things I have done over the last 3 years. Testifying at the legislature, visiting Capital Hill, Visiting our Senators in Washington DC, being invited to the White House to talk about Parent Engagement in K-12, being present when the Governor signed a bill in to law that I helped create, flying to Pennsylvania to train parents on advocacy, creating events at the Capital, training even more parents, and just LEARNING so much. Learning how to share my knowledge, and helping people find their own empowerment.

Because of participating in all these activities, it led me to this amazing job. I will be starting Nov 1, as an Early Learning Community Organizer for the League of Education Voters. It is everything I've been doing as a hobby, or volunteering for, but as a full time job! It will allow me to provide for my family, in a way I haven't been able to do in over 5 years. I can't believe how lucky I am to have worked so hard because I loved something so much, to have this opportunity! It will give me the flexibility to work around my family's schedule and work from home. I will be doing all of the amazing things I've been doing, on a much larger scale, and for a greater good. I am so excited, and so extremely proud of myself, for proving to MYSELF, that I am good. I hear other people tell me all the time, that I'm meant for this work, and I truly believe that I am. I found what I love. I am now that lucky person who finds a job that they love.

They tell you to do what you love, and love what you do, and as of November 1st, I will be doing just that! I am so proud.