Since she discovered Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54's early childhood program, mother-of-two Housna Ghazoualine has found peace of mind in more ways than one.
Not only has the program helped her older daughter, 5-year-old Zaynab Hakimi, with her English and other skills, but Ghazoualine has benefited from the social network that helped her overcome feelings of isolation after emigrating from Morocco.
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"I'd be depressed," Ghazoualine said of her family's early days in Hoffman Estates.
Worst of all, with no other family near, Ghazoualine believed she was making mistakes in raising her older daughter.
But back in 2011, she saw a flier at the Schaumburg Township District Library for the early childhood program and got Zaynab enrolled at Keller Junior High in Schaumburg as soon as possible.
As her daughter began to thrive in the new environment, so did Ghazoualine.
"I'm in a good mood, because we share problems with other moms," she said. "The conversation makes me relaxed. My husband saw that I looked happy."
The fact that they come from an Arabic-speaking household was the reason her daughters qualify as at-risk for the preschool program. That fact was emphasized even more when the family went back to Morocco for four months during the summer of 2013 and Zaynab completely lost all of her English skills.
Returning to the program in the fall not only rebuilt those skills but provided encouragement and strategies to continue practicing at home.
"They teach (the students) to be independent. They teach them to be responsible," Ghazoualine said of the program. "They give you the tools and teach you how to apply them."
Ghazoualine, who regularly volunteers at Keller, believes District 54's plans to have a centralized Early Childhood Center open by August will make an already excellent program better.
"We were in tears, everyone," she said of the news.
One of the most amazing aspects about the program, on top of its effectiveness, is that it's free, Ghazoualine said. She wants to spread the word to everyone who could benefit like her family.
"They're doing a fabulous job," she said. "If the mom's in a great mood, the rest of the family will be, too. I'm in a good situation now, so I want others to know about it."