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.Read More
A Mom with a Plan
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.Read More
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.
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.Read More
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:Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
A Diploma for Mom
Cecelia Fink wants to be the parent her son, Ezequiel, age 1, looks up to.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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 Lynn—and the kids—couldn’t be happier to be there.Read More
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.Read More