“You’ve got to go through it to get to it,” says Ebony, a parent volunteer at the Salem Center.

Before Matrix, Ebony had been working long hours K-Mart. She liked her job, but as a mother of 7 she struggled to make ends meet.

“I wanted to spend more time with my baby,” she said about her youngest son, Elijah. “I felt like I was missing the first two years of his life.”

When K-Mart closed down a few years back, she saw her subsequent unemployment as a blessing in disguise; it brought her, and her entire family, into the Matrix community.

Each of her 7 children had been to a Head Start, but they “were not the same as Matrix”. This led to her question whether or not she wanted to endure that process again. She changed her mind, however, when she became acquainted with Matrix after picking up her nephew from the Salem Center. She noted that although her nephew, Quentin, “didn’t talk much back then,” he “actually talked and interacted with the people there. It was just welcoming; it was such a nurturing environment.”

Ebony was able to enroll Elijah for the following school year. Despite her qualms about enrolling her child in another Head Start program, Ebony realized Matrix was different.

She recalled the nature walks, planting flowers on Mother’s Day, and watching as the kids witnessed caterpillars grow into butterflies.

“It’s not just a daycare – they’re learning. And that makes a big difference.”

With 5 kids living at home at the time, she was also impressed with the wrap-around support the teachers offered to her family.

“At some schools, if you never go to parent-teacher conferences, you don’t even know the teacher. Here, they do home visits at the beginning and at the middle of the year,” she said. “When the teachers came, they wanted to know about our family and how they could help us as a whole… I love that about Matrix.”

Knowing all of her children were in good hands, Ebony was able to return to work full-time.

Her husband joined the policy council, a parent organization group at Salem, inspiring Ebony to become more involved in the school. This year, she is the Chairperson of the Parent Club at Salem, where she volunteers 3 days a week. She has found her role as a volunteer incredibly rewarding on both a personal and professional level, as she has chosen to pursue a career in Early Childhood Education. Through Matrix, she has also been able to take CDA (Child Development Associate) classes in the hopes of earning her CDA credential.

As of right now, Ebony’s ultimate goal is to become a teacher at a Head Start – and she is well on her way. Meanwhile, she has had the privilege of witnessing Elijah’s growth since beginning at Salem, as he learns patience and sharing. Positive practices, such as community dining, line leaders, helping hands, and weather drills, teach the kids “a lot of values, a lot of the things they’re going to need as they move forward.”

“The term ‘Head Start’, is really exemplified at Matrix,” she says. “And it applies to the whole family – It gets you ready for the next stage of your life.”