It is Thursday afternoon – and children begin trickling into the after-school program located at our Sunset Heights community. The calming sound of ocean waves can be heard as chairs start sliding across the floor and the children take their seats. Stephanie Joseph, always with a ready smile, warmly welcomes each child as she prepares for the day.
Stephanie, a Youth and Services Coordinator at Sunset Heights, has more than 20 years of experience working with children. At Sunset Heights, Stephanie oversees the after-school program, the Teen Club and a monthly senior’s program. Within the community, Stephanie is known for going above and beyond for residents of all ages, listening to their needs and sharing local resources.
“When we service the kids here at the after-school program, we are servicing the whole child because we are part of their village,” Stephanie said, emphasizing the need to extend her support to the child’s entire household. “A lot of this job consists of establishing trust and relationships with the residents, so I like to let them know that I am here to serve and assist.”
From Monday to Thursday, Stephanie can often be seen helping the youngest children in her program learn their sight words – focusing on the need to “say the word, spell the word and read the word” in order to learn the word. If Stephanie is unable to sit next to a young student, she makes sure that an older student in the group is available to act as a tutor. She fosters an environment of caring amongst the kids in her program and believes that when the children work together it cultivates teamwork and emphasizes the importance of reading at all levels and stages of life.
“Mentors are the primary source of encouragement when kids are learning to read. It is essential that we are excited about the activity so that it reflects onto them,” Stephanie said. She shares that one of her current students did not know any sight words when they first started the program, but recently this student achieved a 100-word milestone. Stephanie was elated.
Hope through Housing’s programming builds upon the critical afterschool hours by supplying children and teens with mentorship, homework help and the tools necessary to overcome barriers. Studies show that vocabulary attainment in early childhood can predict reading comprehension ten years later – making it clear that the more literacy a person has in early life the higher their chance of obtaining academic success.
“Literacy is so important, and a lot of our kids are not introduced to it at home,” Stephanie said. “We offer homework help and reading services in hopes of instilling in children the value that books have because it can take them around the world and even help them come up with their own stories. It is essential to growing, learning and succeeding as individuals.”
Stephanie emphasizes how important reading daily to the children is. “Sometimes if a kid is having a bad day and you read them a good story, it can comfort them or even brighten their day.”