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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

The Dream Initiative

Meet Taquoia Street, also known as “Teacher Mommy.” This summer, Taquoia piloted a summer learning program she called “The Dream Initiative” with her six-year-old daughter Jade (a member of the first-ever Book Babies graduating class!) and five of her friends.

“I decided to pilot a summer program mainly because I was already gathering summer materials to continue education for my daughter, and I was coming up with some really great stuff that I think that other children could also benefit from. I wanted to make a difference this summer and be a positive role model that my child can look up to. The idea was to start small, with five of her friends this summer, and depending on the outcome, maybe make it broader by adding more children from the community in the future. My motto this summer: Igniting the dreams of girls and turning it into reality.”

One Saturday per month over the summer, Jade and her friends spent the day with Teacher Mommy at her house, learning about everything from financial literacy to chemistry and physics to reading comprehension to math. Taquoia works for Fidelity Investments, where she does trainings and workshops about financial literacy as part of the Fidelity Cares program. She is “passionate about children and making sure everyone has opportunities,” so she took what she knew from her program at Fidelity, did some research online, and developed a curriculum for The Dream Initiative that would help the girls keep learning — and having fun! — all summer long.

She started by gathering what the girls already knew — and in some cases, she was surprised by how much that was. “Sometimes adults put kids in boxes,” she explains, but they don’t realize how much kids absorb without their parents even noticing. Then she built on what they said and what they already knew, using her curriculum to help stretch their thinking and expand on what they had already learned.

They had plenty of fun while they were learning, doing exciting science experiments as well as having dance parties and celebrating the end of summer at the pool. They also learned about giving back, collecting 160 items to donate to Urban Ministries of Durham at the end of the summer. Taquoia explains, “There is so much negative that kids are exposed to. I just want to be a positive.” She credits some of her motivation to pilot this program to her experience with Book Babies, where her home visitor for the first five years of Jade’s life was her first support in the absence of local family. She learned that “you can reach [people] right where they are” through the home visiting program. And the parents of her summer students were so grateful that she did, sharing how important it was for their girls to be connected with friends and another adult role model during the summer. Taquoia saw improvements in Jade’s reading over the summer, too, and she knows she’s well prepared as she starts first grade at W.G. Pearson Elementary School.

What’s next for The Dream Initiative? Taquoia has lots of ideas as a result of her pilot. And what’s next for the big dreamers who were part of this summer’s program? We can’t wait to see!


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