Aug 20, 2020 11:46:17 AM

A Mom with a Plan

In July 2019, Alexis Lee enrolled her two daughters, Avianna and Aubrey, at Bidwell Riverside Child Development Center. As any mother would be, Alexis was anxious sending her girls to a new place but was hopeful Bidwell would be a childcare center they could call “home” during their younger years.

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Jul 24, 2020 3:46:00 PM

American at HeART

Myat, a Karen refugee, continues to embrace his culture while growing and evolving as an American through the power of art and education.

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Jul 21, 2020 4:32:47 PM

Working Hard to Transform a Dream into Reality

Shana took on her life goal of becoming an Registered Nurse after getting a push from the people who believed in her and support from Central Iowa Health Works.

“You have to be darn-near psychotic to take on nursing school. It takes so much of your time. They can only teach you so much. There is so much outside of the classroom you need to know to be a safe nurse,” said Shana Plambeck, recent graduate of Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) Nursing Program.

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Jan 27, 2020 8:00:08 AM

Chase and Jose: A Book Buddy friendship that led to positive change

Chase and his twin brother were three years old when they entered the Shared Visions program at Perry Child Development Center. Chase is outgoing and eager to take charge – often answering for his twin. With that, he sometimes struggles to comply with standard classroom rules and expectations.

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Oct 15, 2019 3:34:11 PM

Finding words for a growing family

I share my story to support continued funding for Tracey’s work with my family and other families, and to show that there’s no right path to raising a family. It’s okay that our family looks different.

Four years ago, the Iowa Department of Human Services contacted me. My niece had run into trouble, and her four children needed a permanent home. My husband describes the moment in this way:

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Aug 15, 2019 2:48:22 PM

On the path she chose

At 5 a.m., Monae Woods’ alarm clock goes off. She sits up in bed, reaches to the wall behind her without looking, and pulls off a sticky note with a handwritten quote. The quote might say, “get it done,” and that sets the tone for her day. The 18-year-old meditates, prays, takes a cold shower, and listens to motivational speakers while cleaning her room. Then she gets ready for work at Principal as an intern working on communications projects.

This life is far different than what she experienced last December, living in her car without heat, huddled in blankets, trying to find a job that would pay her bills while she finished high school. 

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May 21, 2019 1:08:05 PM

Ready for kindergarten

Yanira is an amazing example of what can happen when a four-year-old has the opportunity to work one-on-one with a reading mentor over a school year. 

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May 1, 2019 2:38:12 PM

Pain & Circumstance: A Graduation Story

Missy Montero has missed a lot of school. Not just days, not just weeks, or even months. Added up over time, she has missed years of school.

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Dec 12, 2018 3:29:00 PM

The Girl Who Walked Through a War

Aisha faced a shattering decision: acquire a husband three times her age (and with three wives already) or forfeit her family and her country. Those were the options her father presented her with in the remote Nuba Mountains of Sudan—one of the most isolated and war-torn regions in the world. She was a 16-year-old from Des Moines. Either choice meant losing her future, her life.

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Aug 29, 2018 4:26:40 PM

A Diploma for Mom

Cecelia Fink wants to be the parent her son, Ezequiel, age 1, looks up to.

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Apr 24, 2018 1:07:40 PM

How Many Books Could This 4-Year-Old Carry?

A preschooler's life is changed by United Way of Central Iowa's Book Buddy program, where volunteers read with 4-year-olds twice a week and the students receive a copy of the book each Friday.

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Apr 23, 2018 9:05:11 AM

Coding leads refugee high school student to college scholarship

Three years ago, if you’d asked Bonito what he wanted to be when he grew up, he’d have said professional soccer player.

When he wasn't at school, the 10th-grader was playing soccer and hanging out with his friends. If soccer didn't work out by the time they graduated high school, their families' would likely encourage them to find a job and get married. 

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Apr 12, 2018 6:01:48 PM

Real Men Never Stop Reading

Books were once the exclusive domain of men. As recently as the 19th and early 20th century, women in this country were discouraged from reading, and some were not even taught or allowed to go to school.

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Mar 6, 2018 12:19:05 PM

The Friendship that Saved a Family

Lisa has many lessons to teach her four children.

There’s 13-year-old Solomon—smart but anxious, excited about marine biology. 11-year-old Gabriel loves to read and helps around the house with a smile. Isabella, 7 years old and the only girl, is stubborn and independent—an artist and fashionista. The baby of the family—4-year-old Aziyah—is a natural sweetheart. He plays hard and loves to snuggle. His blond curls attract the family’s hands like a puppy’s fur coat.

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Nov 24, 2017 9:14:00 AM

A central Iowa student gets the vision to learn

Aaniece Owens used to sit in the back of the classroom and squint at the blurry board at the front of the room. Her teacher told her she could go the carpet at the front of the class to read the board if she needed to, but Aaniece was shy and only went a few times. She often had headaches and borrowed her mom's glasses when she was at home. 

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Aug 18, 2017 9:01:53 AM

How a hearing-impaired third-grader learned to read

Nine-year-old Breiner Morales speaks three languages: English, Spanish, and American Sign Language. But until last summer, he couldn’t read in any of them.

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Jun 1, 2017 11:42:36 AM

Bilingual Buddies

When Gema Garcia started volunteering with Book Buddy, she wasn’t sure it was going to work out. Her fears were redoubled early on when the children couldn’t understand her saying the word “worm.” Frustrated, she pointed to the picture and said “gusano” in Spanish. The children immediately understood.

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Apr 30, 2017 5:17:41 PM

Hope is Never Lost

At age 30, Mikeesha came to a crossroads. A single mother of two, she was unemployed and struggling financially—with no clear plan for where to go next.

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Apr 21, 2017 1:45:59 PM

Booking Lunch

When Mike and Lynn Sucik arrive at South Union Elementary on Mondays, they have learned to expect a bit of a mess over lunch. The kids forget their napkins. They spill milk or sauce on the table—sometimes even a little on the books. But the mess is worth it. Mike and Lynnand the kidscouldn’t be happier to be there.

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Dec 8, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Like Son, Like Mother

"Mommy, Book Buddy came today!"

That's the excited refrain Danielle Marion's son Maxwell repeated nearly every week of his preschool year:

Maxwell attended Capitol Park Early Learning Center last year, and, as the weeks went by, his mother began to see a change in him: a newfound love of reading that was connected with his Book Buddy.

"Before Book Buddy, he didn't read too many words," Danielle says. "His vocabulary for what words he could read definitely expanded beyond the handful of sight words he knew."

Danielle adds that Maxwell also learned more about physical books: the cover, the author, when to flip the pages. He especially liked getting his new book each Friday—making sure to place the book safely in his locker to take home at the end of the day.

All this Book Buddy talk from Maxwell piqued Danielle's interest in the program.

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