Faces of Success: Liz Chunga
It’s ten o’clock on a busy Tuesday morning. The toddlers are taking over Liz Chunga’s classroom at St. Luke’s United Way Family Resource Center. Their energy and enthusiasm brings back fond memories for Liz. She’s currently a teacher at St. Luke’s.
Chunga knows that this group of kids has their whole lives ahead of them. However, the time to impact their education is right now, so there’s no time to waste.
“Every day is a different story with what they learn. Not only are they learning about education, the instructors are teaching them to be independent at the same time.”
Liz has thoroughly enjoyed her 12 years at St. Luke’s. She’s seen a lot of success stories emerge from the neighborhood where 46 percent of St. Luke’s pre-school students come from non-English speaking homes, or homes where English is not the family’s first language. One story stands out for her: her story.
Liz was looking for a summer job while she was working toward her associate’s degree. Chunga’s sister referred her to St. Luke’s and Liz immediately became impressed with the facility’s child development program. Liz was studying to become a nurse at the time, but loved working at St. Luke’s so much, she decided to change her career path. That decision was one of the best that she would ever make.
After her daughter Sophia was born, Liz returned to St. Luke’s. She immediately enrolled six-month-old Sophia in the St. Luke’s Child Development Program. Sophia then went on to study in United Way’s Read to Succeed program. Liz couldn’t be happier about Read to Succeed’s impact on her daughter. “I have nieces and nephews at other centers. When we get together, and they want to read or write, my daughter knows so much and is able to help some of the others.”
Sophia’s early literacy success can be traced to United Way’s Read to Succeed program. The program prepares at-risk children with the basic reading readiness skills to prepare them for educational success. Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3 to 4 times more likely to drop out in later years.
Read to Succeed is unlike any other literacy program of its kind, because it utilizes a combination of instructional coaches; parental engagement; lending libraries; professional development; listening, writing and technology centers; as well as participant assessments. With a 97 percent success rate, the program is working.
Chunga’s favorite part of Read to Succeed just might be the research-based curricula. ”They have a good curriculum that is always changing. Every week is different with what they learn.”
Sophia’s literacy learning curve has been simply amazing for her mom to witness. “As a parent, we want our children to be better than us. We want them to have a career and an education. That’s what begins to happen here,” says Chunga.
Liz is also thrilled that the St. Luke’s Child Development and United Way’s Read to Succeed programs have helped other children break language barriers in this community.
“As a teacher, it’s really rewarding to hear a parent say when my son first came to St. Luke’s he didn’t know how to say help me, or I’m hungry. Now he’s able to say those words and many more.”
Liz knows the value and impact of all the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville programs offered at St. Luke’s. They include: the Family Resource Center, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, Youth Encouragement Services (YES) after-school program, the Emergency Financial Assistance program, Mobile Meals, and St. Luke’s Senior FRIENDS.
Chunga can’t wait to see what Sophia’s move to kindergarten next fall reveals about her educational future. “She’s ready to learn because she received the big building blocks for her future right here. She’ll be ready when she goes over there next year.”
Liz’s current classroom of toddlers will also be ready to tackle their educational goals and dreams. These bright-eyed children can rely on their energy and enthusiasm, United Way’s Read to Succeed program, and support from St. Luke’s United Way Family Resource Center to take their next big steps in life.