Empowering Preschoolers and Their Parents
Krystle could have gotten worried when she lost her job due to COVID, as so many others had, and found herself facing an uncertain future. She had been in this place before, enduring the anxiety of searching for a stable job while fearing she might not be able to afford childcare for her son Logan. Only this time, paying for childcare was no longer a concern. Krystle and Logan had Storyteller Children’s Center, a therapeutic preschool that provides early childhood education to children from homeless or low-income families.
“It wasn’t until we found Storyteller that I was actually able to breathe and explore possibilities for my career,” Krystle says. “Storyteller provided peace of mind and security at a time when I didn’t feel secure with everything else going on in the world.”
Before she came to Storyteller Children’s Center, Krystle’s situation was like that of many people served by the preschool: a single parent struggling to make ends meet. Sixty-seven percent of children enrolled at Storyteller come from single parent homes, and 60% identify as homeless.
To meet these challenges, Storyteller, which enrolls 52 children at two preschool locations in Santa Barbara, applies a three-pronged approach bringing together the teachers, the parents/guardians, and their children. Children receive high-quality early education that prepares them for kindergarten, while receiving three nutritious meals a day and access to behavioral health support in partnership with CALM, FSA, and Communify.
For families facing homelessness or domestic abuse, Storyteller works with partner agencies like Transition House to ensure they receive transitional housing or emergency shelter. In order to effectively serve the entire family unit, Storyteller collaborates with a number of other community partners to meet the ongoing needs of the children and families enrolled.
“It is critical that we support our families in addressing the stressors in their lives,” says Executive Director Susan Cass. “If we intervene early and assist them in navigating appropriate resources, we can help to prevent these issues from amplifying and having a much larger impact on the child and the family as a whole.”
Thanks to the support of Storyteller, Krystle has found a career at an eye care facility. Last summer, Logan graduated from the preschool and his mother proudly filmed him walking onto the stage wearing his cap and gown. For a moment, she imagined playing the video for Logan when he graduates from high school.
“Storyteller is going to be with us forever,” Krystle says. “When I asked my son what he thought of Storyteller he said, ‘Storyteller is special and love, that’s all.’”
Director of Development: Adrienne De Guevara,
Storyteller is a therapeutic preschool that serves children and their families toward “Kindergarten Readiness.”
Storyteller serves Santa Barbara’s poorest families, those living below or close to the poverty guideline and who also meet the Federal definition of homeless. This segment of our community may have difficulty accessing and paying for quality preschool.
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The Key Component is Love
We can’t change the world, but we can impact our little corner. Our teachers, our leadership team, and our Board are positively impacting children and their families’ lives every day.
A Lasting Impact on Children and Families
If the last year has shown us anything, it is that we need to lean on each other for support and strength when challenges arise. At Storyteller, teachers and staff have seen first-hand the increased levels of stress and trauma their families are experiencing as a result of the pandemic. From grieving the loss of loved ones to trying to obtain stable housing or employment, the families of Storyteller have experienced more than many of us could imagine. In response to this growing need for support and resources, Storyteller recently introduced a Family Advocacy Program to focus directly on the needs of the parents and guardians. The program provides early intervention for families before challenges become too complex or debilitating to overcome. With the support of community donors, this pilot program will become a permanent part of Storyteller’s service offering and have a lasting impact for years to come.
Jennifer Gillon Duffy
Daisy Estrada Ochoa