Growing Readers, which is managed by United Way as part of our Ready.Set.READ! initiative, is making a difference in Berks County. The impact has also been seen in the City of Reading,especially when it comes to getting kids ready for kindergarten and improving childcare centers.
Katherine Muñoz’s story is a testament to the Growing Readers program. She found herself drawn to this program back in 2017. She had her heart set on getting her Childhood Development Associate (CDA) credential, but knew she needed help to make it happen. Thankfully, her supervisor at Opportunity House’s Second Street Learning Center saw her potential and encouraged her to join Growing Readers.
The path to CDA wasn’t easy for Katherine, though. As a single mom taking care of two kids with special needs, she had a lot on her plate. But she never gave up on her dream of furthering her education. Even with long hours at the learning center and late-night shifts at the Opportunity House shelter, she stayed motivated. She realized that what she was learning through the CDA program wasn’t just making her a better mom; it was also helping her support her students in amazing ways. She said, “Now, I understand why children react the way they do in certain situations. I know how to handle those situations better.”
Katherine didn’t stop at just at attaining her CDA. She had big dreams and set her sights on getting an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Program Management from Reading Area Community College (RACC). It was tough, with late-night study sessions and early mornings at work, but she pushed through. She is still astonished by how far she has come because “there were days I was studying until two in the morning and had to be at work at five in the morning, but when I heard my name called to get my degree it was all worth it.” When asked how she felt walking across that stage she shared, “I had no words, it was just amazing.”
Katherine’s not done yet. She’s aiming for a bachelor’s degree in the future. But for right now, she is passionately sharing her story of transformation with anyone who will listen. “My coworkers are always asking me how I got to where I am and I just tell them the only reason I am here is because of United Way,” she shared excitingly. She’s grateful to United Way, Mary Jimenez, her leaders at Second Street Learning Center, RACC, and her friends and family for supporting her along the way.
Growing Readers has been life changing for 44 Early Childhood Educators (ECEs), including Katherine. And there are 23 more ECEs on their way to success! The program partners with Reading Area Community College (RACC) and gets support from Brad and Barbara Hall. Together, they’re strengthening childcare centers and making sure kids have access to high-quality early education programming.
Katherine’s journey is living proof of how powerful United Way’s Growing Readers program can be. It’s all about dedication, collaboration, and support. With this program going strong, we’re looking forward to a future where more kids have access to high-quality early education, setting them up for lifelong success.