Patience. Patience. Patience.

That is the main word that comes to mind when Charlene Barrios is mentoring other parents and educators about early childhood education.

She should know since she has spent the last 15 years operating her own daycare center, Kids First Home Daycare Inc., in the West Englewood neighborhood. Barrios initially opened the daycare center to stay at home with her youngest daughter but has continued to operate it even after her own children have moved on. Her typical day starts at 6:30 a.m. and ends around 8:30 p.m.

“It’s my passion,” Barrios said. “I love being with children. People ask me all the time ‘Don’t you miss being with grownups?’ I tell them I prefer being with children because there’s no drama.”

She loves to see the growth as children learn at her center, including from a 3-year old who was recently able to recite the popular children’s book Brown Bear, Brown Bear. “Repetition is key while learning to read and the understanding that children are always actively listening and learning, even if it seems like they are not,” Barrios said.

Her center has helped serve her community and Barrios has been glad to mentor parents, many of whom are single, working mothers. She always encourages parents to give themselves self-care and to find a subject they are passionate about to continue their education.

Barrios said she has always wanted to increase her own education credentials, even though she has had plenty of experience in the early childhood field. She had applied for different scholarships but a tip from a professor at Daley College led her to apply for the Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship (CELWS). She received the scholarship and graduated in Fall 2020 with an Associate in Applied Science – Child Development: Pre-school Education from Daley College.

The CELWS also covered her tuition and books at National Louis University, where she graduated this fall with a Bachelors in Arts in Infant-Toddler Studies.

Barrios hopes the CELWS can support others who are interested in joining the early childhood education field, at a time when schools and community-based organizations are looking for more educators.

"“Children need more role models in their life, they need more educators. Children are so delicate so we really need people to take care of them.”" — Charlene Barrios