Juan Luis Novoa
P.M. class —
Jose Carlos Ortiz
Next step: kindergarten
by Teri Vance, Appeal Staff Writer
Dressed in cap and gown, 41 students bid a symbolic farewell to their old lives and prepared for the next big step — kindergarten.
“I want to go to kindergarten,” said Gerardo Gonzalez, 5. “It’s fun to play.”
Empire Elementary School held its first pre-kindergarten graduation ceremony through the Even Start program Wednesday evening.
“Remember you are your child’s first teacher,” Principal Pat Carpenter counseled parents. “Without your support and encouragment, they wouldn’t have been able to do what they’ve done. We look forward to working with you in the future.”
The Even Start program is dedicated to ending generational illiteracy by working with both parents and children. Advocates from the program go into the home weekly to work with children and parents are required to enroll in either an English or adult education class.
Miguel Carillo attended to watch his 5-year-old son, Gabriel, graduate from the program.
“I think this program is good for them to learn what they need to know for the future in school,” he said. “They will learn better how to communicate with society.”
Norma Sanchez attended the ceremony although her son, Andres Sandoval, 7, was not a graduate but part of the Even Start program.
She has balanced working and taking classes in English with raising her son as a single mother.
“It’s definitely worth it,” she said in Spanish. “It’s as much for the parents as it is for the children in a new country, all learning a new culture.”
Directors Nancy Berg and Peggy Sweetland have worked with many of the students since they were toddlers.
“We’re going to cry,” Berg said. “They’ve grown up so much since the beginning.”
The graduates performed a series of songs from “Humpty Dumpty” to “Rima de Chocolate” as part of the ceremony.
“I liked learning the songs,” said Jonathan Hernandez, 5. “I like to sing to my mom.”
After the performance, the students dressed in cap and gown to accept their diplomas.
“I’m so excited,” said Jocelyn Gomez, 5. “It is good.”