We recently launched a project called A First Chapter to share stories of promise, growth and inspiration through early education. (If you missed our first families, you can still meet Mikyla and meet the Johnsons, and catch up with their stories on Facebook!)
A First Chapter comes from our belief in the transformational power of early education, and our desire to celebrate all the people—families, educators, and communities—who work so hard to give young children a good start.
Meet Philadelphia grandma Rhonda Flippen and 5-year-old Haaneesha, or “Neesha”—a lover of acting and hater of naps who is eagerly awaiting “real school.”
Meet Philadelphia, PA grandma Rhonda Flippen and 5-year-old Haaneesha, or "Neesha" — a lover of acting and hater of naps who is eagerly awaiting "real school." Follow their education journey at A First Chapter: afirstchapter.org#afirstchapter
Posted by Waterford Institute on Wednesday, January 3, 2018
“I can read, but she say I read slow,” Rhonda says. “And I don’t knock her for that, cause I do, you know I didn’t have the proper educa… I mean I did pass 12th grade. But I put that in my kids now, like I want you all to be smarter than me. I want you all to do better than me. And that’s what I want for my kids, I want them to get this education, because that’s what’s more important.”
Haaneesha participated in our first-ever Phildelphia Waterford UPSTART program this past year.
Approximately two-thirds of the Philadelphia’s students cannot read at grade level by 4th grade—an important indicator for future success. Waterford partnered with Read By 4th, a citywide effort led by the Free Library of Philadelphia aiming to significantly increase the number of Philadelphia students entering the 4th grade at reading level, to help children and families get a jump start on their child’s education.
“One of the challenges we have here in Philadelphia is that there simply are not enough quality PreK slots for our children to access, so anytime we can find a resource that fills that gap, we’re excited to help make that happen,” Jenny Bogoni, executive director of the Read by 4th campaign, said.
Children like Haaneesha saw significant gains across all six academic strands tested—letter sound, initial sound, blending, listening, comprehension and vocabulary. Most of the Philadelphia participants also had final assessment scores with an equivalent of kindergarten intermediate or kindergarten advanced, meaning they finished Waterford UPSTART at a point where most children are part-way through or finishing kindergarten.
“She’s hyped to be in kindergarten, she can’t wait,” Rhonda says. “Like anytime we get up now to go to school she be like, ‘Where you going, my school is that way!’ And I’m like no that’s in September, and she’s like ‘Awe man, this is baby school, I’m tired of it.’ So she ready. I believe she’s ready.”
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If you enjoy the stories and, like us, consider early education to be of urgent importance, please consider sharing A First Chapter videos and images. Together, we can create awareness of how important it is to ensure every child has an equal shot at success from the very start.
[Flippen- Final Cut]
[North Philadelphia, PA]
Rhonda Flippen: My name is Rhonda Flippen and I’m Haaneesha’s grandmother. I’ve had Haaneesha ever since she was 5 months old. I don’t really know the history of what had happened, but I just know she was put in my arms.
Haaneesha: This is my auntie, my mommy, and my sister Daaneeha.
Rhonda: She… nonstop, all day long, even in her sleep, like she’s going. I mean she’s a kid, that’s what I gotta learn, you know. I done got old, I don’t have the energy no more, you know so, it’s an adventure. It’s an adventure.
Haaneesha: (reading) And then, a helicopter came, and then it flew across the houses.
Rhonda: She’s not at that point of reading, but she is aware of a lot of stuff, like she will open up a book and she will basically tell you whatever is going on with that picture.
Haaneesha: (reading) One pack of cereal, and two packs of pumpkins, and three packs of chicken.
Rhonda: My daughter reads to her all the time, like my daughter goes through a book like that (snaps). And that’s what she likes, she likes that fast reading that I can’t present to her.
Haaneesha: (reading) And then her friend decided, can we draw on it, and then she said yes.
Rhonda: I can read, but she say I read slow. And I don’t knock her for that, cause I do, you know I didn’t have the proper educa… I mean I did pass 12th grade. But I put that in my kids now, like I want you all to be smarter than me. I want you all to do better than me. And that’s what I want for my kids, I want them to get this education, because that’s what’s more important.
[UPSTART program and Haaneesha]: Now, read with me. My pot is hot.
Rhonda: I mean her grandpa tells her, ‘”You know you wanna be smart, you wanna know things, you know you about to start…” She calls it “real school” because she don’t have to take naps no more. So, we be like “Yo, when you go to real school you need to learn these things, you need to know these things.” And she be like “OK” and once she get to going, she’s gone. Like she’s knowing her letters. She know how to spell her name, and it’s a very long name. It’s a lot, like she do a lot to be five years old.
Haaneesha: (spelling) “H. A. A. N. A. S”…
Rhonda: I mean there’s some things she still needs to work on, like with her shapes and all that. But when I had met the teachers and I told them what she was capable of and what she was doing. They told me “Mom, don’t do anything, she’s already advanced. As long as she knows how to spell her name, we got the rest. She know her birthday, we got the rest. She know her address, we got the rest.” I say, well, well, she done passed this class already, cause she knows all that. She’s hyped to be in kindergarten, she can’t wait. Like anytime we get up now to go to school she be like, “Where you going, my school is that way!” And I’m like no that’s in September, and she’s like “Awe man, this is baby school, I’m tired of it.” So she ready. I believe she’s ready.
[A First Chapter | afirstchapter.org |provided by the nonprofit Waterford]