“It was like an answer to our prayers,” Shannon described when she first heard of the Elaine Clark Center through a friend of a friend.
Not only did her daughter Emma’s public school close at the beginning of the pandemic, but the two also moved from Arizona to Georgia in 2020. Emma is usually social and energetic; her mom describes her as a “lovebug.” But following the cross-country move and almost a year of isolation, Shannon noticed Emma become more shy and timid, and as old behaviors resurfaced.
Luckily, in early 2021 Emma started with ECC’s Virtual School Camp, a new Out of School Services program for school-age students to receive face-to-face interaction and programming while public schools remained closed. It wasn’t long before Shannon saw Emma break through that new shell. Emma came home with stories about her friends and teachers, and Shannon cites mental health improvements for both Emma and herself. Emma is also more helpful at home, and clearly “really responding” to the staff at the center.
Even though virtual learning is no longer a barrier Emma faces, and she can return to public school, Shannon “fell in love with [ECC] ” and plans to place Emma in the Heart of Hope Academy next fall. She likes the vocational training and community engagement opportunities for students at ECC. She also notes how happy other students are at morning drop-off every day.
“Everyone always seems happy to be here, no one’s fighting it. Kids are a good tell of how a situation is,” she explained.
As Emma continues with ECC this year, Shannon looks forward to more improvements in her independence and potty training.
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