Kim and her mom live alone together in Waukegan. They share a close relationship, rely on each other for support and have always been together. So, when Kim stepped into Clearview Elementary School for United Way of Lake County’s Kindergarten Countdown Camp (KCC), it was the first time she had ever been separated from her mom.

Kim struggled with the transition. Kim’s KCC teacher, Ms. Rodriguez, shared that Kim would cry throughout the entire day. She would cry while writing her name, while cutting out shapes, while walking to the lunchroom.

In addition to a licensed kindergarten teacher, each of United Way of Lake County’s KCC classrooms has a teacher assistant to help students overcome challenges when preparing for kindergarten.

Ms. Rodriguez and the teacher assistant, Ms. C, worked together to create a strategy to help Kim feel more comfortable in the classroom setting. They brought Kim a special teddy bear to class, they set up a visit with Kim’s mom during lunch, and they gave Kim a visual of her day’s schedule with a fun countdown to seeing her mom again.

For weeks, Kim continued to struggle and cry throughout the day. It was hard to imagine Kim ever feeling happy and engaged in school. But, each day Ms. C continued to work one-on-one with Kim to provide a nurturing environment with constant encouragement and support. And, each day, Ms. C and Ms. Rodriguez provided Kim’s mom with the reassurance and encouragement to continue bringing Kim to KCC.

Finally, with two weeks left of KCC, Kim made a breakthrough. Kim began to socialize and engage with the other students, she began raising her hand to participate in class and name the days of the week, and she started to laugh and dance with her classmates.

Through KCC, Kim was able to receive unique, individualized and focused support that enabled her to make a shift in her attitude and perception of school. Ms. Rodriguez shared, “By the end of KCC, Kim radiated confidence in her school work and in her interactions with the teachers and students.”Kim is now on track and ready to start kindergarten alongside her classmates.

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