Metkel was with her son at their neighborhood playground over a year ago when she heard another mom talking about IRCO’s Ventura SUN School Program.
“My kids needed daycare but daycare is expensive and the woman at the park explained that there’s a free program for low income families with a classroom style group for children,” said Metkel who previously had a job working at a bank, but after giving birth she now stays at home with her children full-time while her husband works to help the couple save money on child care costs.
Although money was tight, Metkel knew it was important to give her newborn daughter and toddler son opportunities to stay socialized and mentally stimulated, so she enrolled her son in IRCO’s SUN Program. Metkel noticed how quickly he was welcomed into the group, all thanks to the help of his teacher and SUN Program Coordinator, Jacqui.
Before the pandemic, Metkel and her children attended their learning group once a week, where activities enhanced multiple relationships—parent to student, teacher to student, and student to student.
When COVID-19 restricted in-person gatherings, Jacqui swiftly adapted her program into something now known as “Kinder Kits.” Each week Metkel and her children are given a take-home activity bag—the activities change every week and cover a variety of subjects ranging from math and science to art and music. Children do the activity before class with the help of their parent and then discuss it with their peers in a weekly Zoom meeting led by Jacqui.
“I didn’t think my 3 year old would participate this well at such a young age. He loves all the arts and crafting but I think his favorite project was the bird feeder,” said Metkel.
For the first time in his life, Metkel’s son was receiving 1-on-1 educational attention from a teacher—something she never thought would be possible for him at such a young age because they could not afford preschool.
Metkel feels fortunate to have found a program that enriches her children’s lives. She urges those who might be interested to make the most out of their relationship with IRCO.
“Don’t hesitate to ask questions and to ask for help in different areas of your life – don’t wait for what you get offered, also ask. They might have other resources that they can connect you with. I don’t know if I’m more reserved when I ask for help, but I learned with Miss Jacqui to just ask and you’ll never know what you get back,” said Metkel.
No matter what challenges we face as a community, IRCO continues to look ahead to the future and the children who are its foundation.
Your gift allows families to flourish despite hardship. Even through a pandemic, basic needs don’t change and still need to be met. We do not want anyone to hesitate to ask for the resources that they need to thrive. Metkel and her children learned that asking questions can mean connecting to resources they didn’t even know were available.