Susan Warner | Save The Children
Save the Children’s Program Coordinator Tracie Kenney helps Jazmine count on the abacus.
Kit Kittle | Save The Children
Kathie Lee Gifford, left, and Hoda Kotb, right, co-hosts of TODAY, pose for a photo with Yvonne Shale, Joshua Sansom and their 4-year-old daughter Jazmine Sansom from the Quinault Indian Nation in Queets at the biennial Celebration of Hope event at the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich, Conn., on May 4.
A sunny 4-year-old with an outgoing personality capable of charming people from around the country has recently taken an extraordinary trip from the small village of Queets to New York City.
Jazmine Sansom wasn’t always so outgoing. Her turn-around from quiet, socially withdrawn toddler to talkative social butterfly was considered a success story for Save the Children. Tracie Kenney is an early childhood coordinator who works with the Early Steps to School Success in Queets-Clearwater and Lake Quinault, a program funded by Save the Children.
When the agency was looking to produce a website video about the success of the early intervention program, they chose Jazmine and a little girl from Africa as success stories. A film crew of four cameramen, two photographers and a producer blew into the tiny village and followed Jazmine for four days, Kenney explained. “Jazmine got them wrapped around her little finger,” Kenney said. “They were so impressed with her social skills and success story they wanted to show it to their donors and people who don’t get to see the work being done.”
The entire family was invited to attend the Celebration of Hope event the evening of May 4 at the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich, Conn.
So, Save the Children arranged for transportation from Queets to New York City and then Connecticut. The family was provided with a donated credit card to purchase “gala appropriate” clothing, and Jazmine along with her parents and two brothers received star treatment, including staying at a four-star hotel.
At the event, Jazmine’s mother Yvonne Shale addressed the gathering of more than 350 people. “The parents in Queets choose to live a humble life in the tradition of our ancestors in our isolated village,” she said. “But just as much as we want our children to grow up knowing about their culture, we also want them to have a fair shot at getting a quality education that will help them achieve a bright and successful future.”
Kenney also accompanied the family. “It was a great opportunity for people who don’t see rural America very often to see the impact Save the Children has for these kids,” she said.
It was Jazmine’s mom that first contacted Kenney when she was working with another family nearby. “She sought me out and asked, ‘Could you come do this at my house?’ ”
What Kenney does as part of the Early Steps to School Success program includes offering parenting tips and supplying book packs with books for parents to read to their children.
“I think it’s a powerful success story in that it gave the parents the strength and the confidence to help their kids get ready for school. The children are responding positively to that,” she said, which is exactly what she expected because the program is research-based.
“It’s taking modern research and applying it out in these isolated little communities — it works, and it’s important. No matter where you are around the world all children need that extra help in the early years,” Kenney said.
To see the Save the Children video staring Jazmine Sansom, visit www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6153015/k.E633/Education.htm
The same program that helped Jazmine Sansom will soon help other children locally.
Children in South Bend and Raymond will be offered an opportunity to improve their chances for lifelong success through Save the Children’s Early Steps to School Success program — an early childhood education and development program that helps children living in poverty develop essential early learning skills.
The program launched in February and will serve local children from South Bend and nearby Raymond. It will provide services for at least 50 children in the area, from birth to age 5, and will offer expectant parents information they can use to prepare for their child’s developmental success early on.
“We are very proud of our early childhood program and this program will help to enhance the good things we are already doing,” said Mike Morris, South Bend school district superintendent. “We are committed to early education and strongly believe in it being an integral part of helping kids to be successful later on in school.”