Lamia Jenkins has taken care of her younger siblings and cousins as long as she can remember. “I loved taking care of children so much that I always said to my family, ‘I’m here if you need me!’” she recalled. So when IDEA began to offer child development classes through a partnership with OSSE’s First Step program, Lamia jumped at the chance to enroll in 10th grade.
She continued on the path to earn her Child Development Associate (CDA) credential during 11th grade but was disappointed when the Covid-19 pandemic cut short the hands-on portion of the course—volunteering with Educare—in Spring 2020. “I knew I didn’t have enough practical hours to create my CDA portfolio, so I asked [IDEA CTE Director] Ms. Zimmermann about other options for completing my hours and learning more,” Lamia explained. Zimmermann worked with Southeast Children’s Fund, a child care provider that also sponsors professional development for early childhood educators, to secure a spot for Lamia in the summer CDA session. The class happened to be geared toward adults, but Lamia fit right in. “It was a little intimidating because it’s all adults, but it’s been a great class.” In addition to learning from the instructors, Lamia has also absorbed great information from her classmates, most of whom are already working in child care centers.
“I’ve learned about the importance of adult to child ratios,” Lamia said, “and that safety is the number one priority. When you are caring for children, you’re like their parent but at school.”
The class began in early May and goes through late September, so Lamia has had to balance the workload of her regular classes at IDEA with her CDA class, which meets online twice a week. “That’s been good time management practice for me,” she said.
“I’m working really, really hard,” Lamia said. “The way the teachers explain everything it’s clear, and simple, and we have books to refer to if we need more information. I enjoy that everyone can explain something and help teach each other. The biggest challenge in the class, Lamia said, was writing reflections about what she’s learned, but she appreciates the value of being able to look back and see how far she’s come.
When health guidelines allow child care centers to fully reopen, Lamia will complete her hands-on hours, then take the CDA exam. Once she has passed the CDA exam and graduated from IDEA, she will have earned the credential that will enable her to work in a child care center or apply her credential toward higher education. Lamia plans to attend college in North Carolina. After that, she has laid out a variety of options for her future.
“I know I want to work with kids, but I have other plans too. I want to own my own business—it could be a veterinary practice, a dance and recording studio because I like to sing and dance, or my own child care center. Or I might become a teacher.”
The number one lesson she’s learned about working with kids could easily apply to her own life. “Everything takes time,” she said. “You must be patient.”