Every summer, over 200 AVANCE-Austin graduates receive their diplomas after nine months of dedication and commitment in the Parent-Child Education Program. Last year, as they walked across the stage of the Allan Early Childhood Center, the class of 2015 all possessed one thing in common: the keys to unlock their full potential.
As the graduates held their diplomas up proudly, these children and parents were certain this would not be their last graduation ceremony; their journey had just begun.
Seventeen years ago, parents and children in AVANCE-Austin’s class of 1999 walked across the very same stage at Allan Elementary, where they had completed classes in toy-making, English instruction, and childhood development. Among these proud parents was Belinda Rodriguez-Aguilar with her 1 year old son, Juan. At AVANCE, Belinda discovered a passion for giving back to her community. She became an AVANCE teacher the following year. Belinda worked with infants and toddlers on early learning activities.
As a former participant, she enjoyed watching the mothers gain confidence and form long-lasting friendships. In her free time, she took courses in Child Development to build upon her skills. She explains the experience not only helped her as a mother, but as a teacher as well. “Working as an infant teacher and taking child development classes taught me that every child is unique and that each one deserves special attention.”
After working at AVANCE-Austin for a couple of years, Belinda carried her passion to the City of Austin, where she currently screens mothers for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and helps conduct monthly cooking classes. Her son, Juan is now 17 years old and is a rising high school senior, where he is a member of ROTC, plays football and maintains good grades. Along with her 3 other children, he has a bright future ahead of him.
She keeps in touch regularly with AVANCE mothers and is proud to be part of a strong support network, where they take care of each other in times of need.