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Stories about YWCA – Parents As Teachers

What is the YWCA – Parents As Teachers Program?

All parents want to see their child set out on the path to success right from the start. At the YWCA – Parents As Teachers program, staff partner with young men and women and provide support as parents establish a healthy foundation for their young children and help them become kindergarten ready.

But really, it’s about so much more than that. Take a look at these stories as parents and staff talk about how they work together to strengthen parents’ ability to become meaningfully engaged in their preschoolers’ lives, help kids to be ready for kindergarten, and, ultimately, enrich the relationships parents have with their children.

NATAJA - Parent

Nataja is a first-time mom, double-major college student and AmeriCorps member. She’s a powerful woman who loves children—the apple of her eye is her 6-month-old daughter. Nataja discovered the YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County’s Parents as Teachers program while doing some research during her pregnancy. Wanting to learn more about childhood development, she felt an instant connection with the program’s curriculum and the YWCA’s overall mission to empower women.

One of the resources Nataja enjoys most in the program is a mom-to-mom group where mothers come together to share stories and commonalities as their children grow. With every mother at a different stage of childhood development and going through various experiences, Nataja loves that they can all support and encourage one another. The group provides an empowering avenue for mothers to connect and form a special bond and friendship as their children develop into their kindergarten years and beyond.

“When I think about being a mother, I think about a leadership role. Someone guiding you through life with a nurturing spirit and giving you the tools to empower you and others through life,” Nataja said. “My parent educator, Melody, has really helped me learn about the stages of child development and what to expect. It has been amazing to watch her daughter grow and hit different milestones.”

As Nataja works to finish up her degrees in criminal justice and social work, she hopes to pursue a career working with children or in child development post-graduation.

“I want to use these tools I’ve learned in the program and help encourage and support other women through any challenges they may be facing,” Nataja said.

BETH - Supervisor, Parents as Teachers, YWCA

Beth loves working with parents and children in her local community. Born and raised in Rochester, NY, she brings her passion to life every day at her job as supervisor of the Parents as Teachers program at the YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County.

Being a new parent can be scary, but Beth works closely with mothers, fathers and children to foster a strong connection that supports the stages of child development through kindergarten—ultimately establishing a bond that drives growth through all stages of life.

“Ages zero to three are a very critical time for growth for a child—it sets the foundation for life. Providing support to parents and making sure they have everything they need is so important,” Beth said. “From knowing what’s normal to understanding what’s next in child development, my colleagues and I are there to guide, nurture and support parent and child engagement through every critical milestone.”

Beth facilitates a full circle of personal empowerment between parents, children, other families within the program and the community. Every day, she helps parents create a nurturing parent-baby connection. She supports parents through every momentous or uncertain step along the way. She cultivates a sense of community by uniting parents with other families and local resources. Empowerment is at the heart of everything Beth—and the YWCA—does.

SARASHA - Parent

Little did Sarasha know, a baby shower would change the course of her life as a mother. About a year ago, she attended a shower on North Street where several vendor tables were set up. Among the vendors was one with more information about the YWCA and its programming.

As a young mother moving from home to home with her one-year-old and six-year-old, Sarasha sought stability and a sense of community. After talking with the YWCA team, she enrolled in the organization’s Parents as Teachers program, which is designed for young parents ages 13-29 looking to build a healthy foundation for their family through a structured curriculum and activities that focus on early childhood development.

A year has passed since Sarasha enrolled in the program, and the parenting tools and life lessons she learned have been invaluable.

“Since I’ve been a part of the program, my growth has been tremendous,” she said. “I’ve been able to learn a lot about myself and use what I’ve learned to better my relationship with my kids and other people. I’m very thankful.”

Through the program, Sarasha also found a sense of belonging and feels empowered to live out her dreams and aspirations. Among her goals is to publish a novel—she’s currently working on a story about a young woman from Rochester, NY, overcoming obstacles in her personal life. However, the sense of community she feels at YWCA has also inspired her to give back to others. She hopes to one day open her own business that provides housing support for those in need, just as the YWCA helped her through the process of securing a lease for a great new apartment for her family.

Sarasha feels the skills she’s learned and the support she’s received through the YWCA will help her do just that.

“I’m really grateful for the mentors and all of their knowledge,” she said. “I’ve struggled with stability, so I feel like this is going to be the start of something new and it’s more of a foundation for stability in my life.”

MELODY - Parent Educator, Parents as Teachers, YWCA

Melody Flores’ life is defined by empowerment. Growing up in Puerto Rico under the care of a single mother in an unstable household, Melody was drawn to pursue a career working with children. She advocated for herself, went back to college and started the next chapter of her life at 19 with her firstborn by her side.

Today, Melody is a parent educator in the YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County’s Parents as Teachers program. As a single parent herself to two active teenagers, Melody is passionate about empowering young mothers to create invaluable bonds with their children, establish a strong sense of community and understand the various stages of child development.

Parent/child interactions at the early stages of a child’s life are so important in paving the way for a healthy foundation for the future. “The first three years of a child’s life are really critical,” Melody said. “That’s when a lot of social and emotional brain development happens.”

Melody takes pride in sitting down and getting to know her clients beyond the basics by really understanding their goals to help them establish and maintain a steady foundation for their children through kindergarten—and ultimately through the future years. From personalized parent and child interaction home visits and group activities to developmental assessments and community resources, Melody supports and empowers moms on their parenting journey every step of the way.

“I love what I do,” Melody said. “And the part where I seek the most happiness is watching my clients succeed … and watching their babies grow.”


In 2013, Virginia found herself homeless after giving birth to her first child. Seeking help at the time, Virginia found a sense of community, respite and stability at YWCA. It was her first experience in a shelter, and they made her feel welcomed and comfortable. Six years later, Virginia is now a mother of three loving and energetic toddlers all under the age of six, and the many years she’s participated in the YWCA Parents as Teachers program have helped her develop new perspectives about life and motherhood.

“They do a good job of reminding you there’s not a handbook for parenting and that no child is the same,” she said. “Being a mom is hard and very overwhelming. They’ve given me a different mind frame and I can focus on the things I know are going to benefit my kids in the future. Their support has been a blessing.”

Most impactful to her journey has been the encouragement and mentorship she’s received from her case manager, who goes beyond her job to ensure the wellbeing of Virginia and her family—so she feels accepted and empowered. One day, she hopes to share that sense of empowerment with others, hopeful that her story can help others in similar situations to seek the help they need.

“Empowerment for me means being able to be uplifted even in situations that aren’t the most positive—they do that for me here,” she said. “They see us at the very bottom and still get up with us in the mornings and send us on our way.”

The YWCA is with them through every step, helping instill meaningful lessons whenever possible.

“The biggest lesson the YWCA has taught me is that the worst answer I can possibly get is a ‘no’ and even if it’s a no, you can always go beyond that,” Virginia said. “They encourage us to push forward, because if I took no for an answer in a lot of the predicaments I faced, I wouldn’t be as blessed as I am now.”


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