Building Brighter Futures: Teaming Up To Help Oklahomans

Wednesday, August 24th 2022, 8:56 pm

By: News 9

News 9 has a brand-new partnership with Sunbeam Family Services. We are working with Sunbeam as they open the Edwards Early Education Center and Community Hope Center. We believe through this project we are Building Brighter Futures and will make an impactful difference in the lives of Oklahoma Children. 

At one of Sunbeam’s early education centers, little Jaeleigh is “cooking” up her favorite meal. Using playdough. She’s three. 

“Three and a half going on 13,” jokes her mom, Jaedah. 

Jaeleigh is one of about 544 kids all between the ages of zero and three who attend one of Sunbeam's current early education centers.    

“We play with play dough, we go outside, we paint,” explains Jayleigh. 

It sounds like playing. But according to Sunbeam everything they do here is intentional to set the child up for success. 

“Our teachers and parents are the architects of a child’s brain because it’s 90% developed by age 5,” explains Sarah Rahhal, Sunbeam’s COO. 

“Her learning the tools she is learning now, I think, is enforcing and instilling the powerful woman that she will be one day,” says Jaedah.            

Every classroom only has 8 kids and two teachers. The kids stay in the same class with the same teacher the whole time they're here. 

“It’s really important for the children because they know those teachers, they feel safe with them,” says Rahhal. 

A majority of the children here are from households who are low income, have special needs, are in foster care or being raised by grandparents, all kids research shows benefit the most from this type of environment. But it's not just the kids, parents are encouraged to be a part of the classroom and are offered support services. 

“We know when parents do well their children do well,” says Rahhal. “So, when parents are struggling with unemployment, their housing situation, or their own health if we can provide a family support specialist to really work with them, set goals, achieve things they want to do then their family will do better.”                

And all this couldn't be more important than right now when Sunbeam says even their tiniest clients are impacted by the stress of the pandemic. 

“Children have been more isolated during the pandemic, families have been more stressed,” says Rahhal. “So really working on ways to help children care for each other, look out for themselves, do their own deep breathing, taking care of their needs in the moment.” 

Sunbeam says the number of Oklahomans seeking mental health care has doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. Now at 46%. So, they have mental health specialists even for infants. 

“It’s really noticing what the child is experiencing and helping the parent,” says Rahhal. 

Now with the opening of the new Edwards Early Education Center nearly 100 more children and their families will ultimately be able to benefit from those same services. 

Sunbeam has spent $2.8 million and two years renovating the old Edwards Elementary, one of the schools OKCPS closed as part of the pathways to greatness program. 

When Rahhal was asked what it’s like seeing all these renovations being done she answered: “It’s joy filled, it’s just knowing that what we’re bringing here is so important for the families that we serve.” 

Edwards is located in a part of the city with a high prevalence of risk factors that Sunbeam's programs address. 

There are 12 classrooms that will be opened as teachers get hired. many with their own playground. 

The gym will be available for the community and is also a storm shelter for students and staff. 

The center will also have two mental health playrooms and a community office space and family resource room where they will provide classes for parents, have computers available, and an emergency food pantry. 

“We help them with applying for jobs, different housing options, that really setting the goals for their family so they can live their best life,” says Rahhal. 

“I’m telling you this place is amazing,” says Jaedah. 

She has certainly noticed how Sunbeam has molded her daughter and their little family. 

“I think they’re teaching her to love everyone, and I love that.” 

Over the next several months News 9 is raising money for the new Edwards Early Education Center. If you want to donate go to this link. 

And tomorrow and Friday News 9 and Sunbeam will host a two-day Family Resource Festival. First at Edwards on Thursday and then at Pierce Early Education Center on Friday . 

Families will be connected with 20+ organizations who provide a wide variety of important resources, PLUS some fun as well, like free face painting and snow cones. 

It's from 3:30 to 7:30 each day.   

Sunbeam Family Resource Festival


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