It Takes a Village: Myisha Smith-Whitaker
Each week in December, we introduce you to families whose lives have been impacted by Children’s Council of San Francisco. Today we meet Myisha Smith-Whitaker, sons Asanté and Keyonté, and child care provider Ruth Jackson. With your support, we can build stronger communities, keep our city’s parents working, and prepare children like Asanté and Keyonté to be Ready for School, and Ready for Life.
Click here to donate now!
While Visitacion Valley in San Francisco has not been immune to gentrification, there still lies a sizeable working-class neighborhood of tightly-knit families, many of whom have resided in the same homes for three generations or more.
One of those residents is Myisha Smith-Whitaker, who moved into her Visitacion Valley home in the mid-1970’s, when she and her parents relocated from New Orleans. Now in her early 40’s, Myisha and her mother still reside in that same home, along with Myisha’s husband and their children: sons Asanté, 17, and Keyonté, 16; daughter Umecko, 11; and her 20 month old son Javone.
In the late 90s, Myisha – then a single working mother with two infant sons – found herself in desperate need of child care. She says, “I was working a security job, but I needed help. When my working hours didn’t meet my needs, I had to quit. I had to put my sons first. Asanté and Keyonté were both so smart. Even at 1 and 2 years old, they were walking, speaking in full sentences, and they started reading at a very early age.”
But, she says, “Asanté was starting to act out and the doctor recommended a formal child care setting. The social-emotional development children get in that environment is just as important as academics.” Myisha needed quality child care, and she knew exactly where she could find it: around the corner from her home at Ruth Jackson’s family child care center, Polly’s Kiddie Care. Unfortunately, she couldn’t afford it.
She turned to Children’s Council for assistance. “Children’s Council helped me with getting child care subsidies and allowed me to start working again. I went to work at San Francisco Giants stadium. Children’s Council really helped me work around my hours according to the baseball season.”
Myisha’s sons flourished in Ruth Jackson’s program. According to Jackson, who has directed Polly’s Kiddie Care for an astounding 40 years, and was a preschool teacher in San Francisco Unified School District for 25 years prior, “Asanté was calm and really smart, Keyonté was a busy child, you had to keep him occupied at all times. But they were a joy and they both loved reading. Every child is different and we have to teach these children to be functional people in society. I work with each child as an individual. You have to find out each child’s learning style.”
Asanté is now a senior in the Gateway to College program at City College of San Francisco, a program taught by College faculty that prepares students for college. Keyonté has a strong grade point average at Phillip & Sala Burton Academic High School in Visitacion Valley, where he’s also a cheerleader and in the choir.
Myisha says, “Getting quality child care and preschool was the key to my kids’ success. Me and Ruth are like family. She is like the mayor of our neighborhood. My sons always go to visit with her, and now my little one is in her program. It really does take a village. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t found Children’s Council. I think those boys would have been in and out of jail. So many good kids fall into that pattern. I refused to let that happen.”
Each year Children’s Council builds stronger communities in San Francisco by helping families find and pay for quality child care. We keep parents like Myisha stay in our city’s work force and we help provide enriching educational experiences for kids like Asanté and Keyonté, getting them Ready for School, and Ready for life.
But we need your help! We hope you will consider supporting our city’s families and communities through a year-end gift to Children’s Council.
Click here to donate now!