They have been through more in their brief lives than most of us experience in a lifetime. Travonte, age 4, Tramonte, age 3, and Tranayjah, age 2, are the children of single father Terrance.
Terrance had known Savalas (children’s mother) for more than 20 years when they finally came together. He knew she had a history of heart disease and had a pacemaker, and that she was already mother to eight children herself. But she wanted more, and so Travonte and Tramonte were born. Both Terrance and her doctors warned her against getting pregnant again, but she wanted a girl. Six weeks after giving birth to Tranayjah, she passed away.
Terrance and Savalas had shared responsibility for the kids. After she died, the children were embroiled in a custody battle between Terrance and Savalas’ older children, who took them away from him until a judge gave them back to Terrance. The impact on the children was devastating. “First, you lose your mother and you don’t know how, and then, at the same time, Dad, who is always there, suddenly he’s not there anymore.” Travonte, called Taytay by his father, felt her absence the most. “Her presence is very missed by him, he’s the one I’m dealing with the most,” says Terrance. “He has a lot of temper tantrums, shut downs, blank outs, he has these moments where he’ll cry and say, ‘I want my mom.’”
Once the children were back in his custody, Terrance needed to find daytime child care for them, so he could continue to support his family. “I researched a few childcare places and everybody kept saying ‘we can take the younger one but not the older ones’ or ‘I’ve got room for the boys but not the girl.’ I needed someone who could take them all.” Given what they’d already been through, he felt it was important to keep them together; no more separations. “I was giving up and one morning I got a phone call from [Turnquist] saying ‘we have a spot for all three kids now.’ I did a little research and visited, the staff walked me through, and I was like ‘You guys don’t know how much of a blessing!’ Ever since that day I thank God for you guys.”
Speaking of his little ones, Terrance says: “They are all my angels. Travonte, he’s a character of his own. He’s a bright young boy, shy and bashful, he loves basketball. Tramonte is more in your face. He’s my eater, you gotta keep the refrigerator full for him. He sees himself being a football player. Tranayjah, she’s a character among characters, she’s expressive, when it comes down to face gestures, impressions, picking things up, she’s one in a million.”
But the older children had challenges. Both Travonte and Tramonte had trouble with language. “You couldn’t understand what they were saying, Tramonte would go about mumbling. I think they were more scared to speak out, so when they talked, you had to make everybody be quiet just to get a simple sound out of them. Travante’s equilibrium was off, he was just clumsy, with bad hand-eye coordination. The guys had temper issues, they didn’t like sharing, they would get really aggressive, they would shut down.”
Since coming to Turnquist, things have improved for Terrance’s children. Both Travante and Tramonte have benefitted from Turnquist’s brain-based approach to child development, and both have also received occupational and speech therapy. Now, says Terrance, “they’re outspoken, you can hear every word clearly. Even my mom notices, she says to them ‘oooh, you’re talking so good!’ It’s a dramatic, dramatic change. Their physical movements are more coordinated. Travante, he still jitters side to side a little bit, but I think that’s him being silly at times.”
Terrance credits the staff at Turnquist with these gains. “They learned how to eat with a spoon. I didn’t teach them that, they were here most of the time, because I was working. Being able to have them come to the same place every day, with the same teachers and the same other kids is giving them stability they wouldn’t have had prior to that because of all the chaos. I tell everybody about you guys because I hadn’t found a daycare that took the time – and I don’t even call you guys a daycare, I call you a learning school, the services you provide these kids are way beyond being a daycare in my eyes.”
Do you need child care? Call Turnquist today at (612) 789-1236 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about enrolling your child in our program!
Boost-Up Plus is a 3-week multisensory summer camp for children ages 5-11 that focuses on stimulating physical and cognitive development through fun and challenging gross motor, fine motor, vision and auditory activities. Incorporating elements of A Chance To Grow’s S.M.A.R.T. approach, the program is able to influence a child’s ability to learn, think and remember, ultimately giving them the confidence they need to achieve success in and out of the classroom.
“It’s a holistic approach to help children reach their full potential,” says Patrick Dreher, a Developmental Adaptive Physical Education Teacher in the Robbinsdale district and instructor of the Boost-Up Plus program. “We work on building automatic responses in the brain, like balance, hand-eye coordination and cross-lateral skills through our ever-changing course of activities. As these abilities become more automatic, students are more likely to absorb and retain the information being taught in the classroom, because they are more prepared to learn.”
Patrick returned to school and earned several degrees, including a Master of Science in Special Education. He would later attend a conference for physical educators where he was first introduced to A Chance To Grow’s S.M.A.R.T. approach. This experience reinforced his belief that a moving child is a learning child. As fate would have it, he was hired shortly after as a physical education teacher at the Minnesota Transitions School, which happens to be in the same building as A Chance To Grow.
Patrick attended a 3-day S.M.A.R.T. workshop at ACTG and began introducing elements he learned into his own curriculum. The administration supported his efforts, and soon he was helping his students get the recommended 30 minutes of S.M.A.R.T. activities each day. Upon seeing this, the coordinators of Boost-Up Plus invited Patrick to join the team for the upcoming summer program, an invitation he happily accepted.
Since 2015, Patrick has been a Boost-Up Plus instructor and relishes the opportunity to lead the program each summer. “It’s difficult in a school environment because I sometimes only see students twice a week, which isn’t enough time to reach the 80 hours a year we aim for. It can take 2-3 school years to see any improvements at that rate. But in the summer, we have three weeks to work on specific things for each child and you can see progress happen much faster.”
“Every child has their own starting point and progress means different things for different people,” says Patrick. “We begin with an initial assessment to see where the child is and identify what skills we want to work on over the course of the camp. We make individualized adaptations as much as possible, and the obstacle course changes from day to day.”
The course includes activities like belly crawling, balance beams, overhead ladders, fine motor work stations and more. “We meet the students at their level by making the course incrementally harder or easier, depending on their individual needs. They appreciate the changes and that excitement fuels their motivation to reach their potential for that day.”
“There’s lots of different things I’ve seen and done that have worked great for some students, but not for others,” says Patrick. “This program works for everyone.”
Patrick relishes the moments when it “clicks” for the students, when they realize that they have the capacity inside of themselves to overcome obstacles on their own. “Once they know they have that power, they can do anything,” says Patrick. “It’s rewarding when they want to challenge themselves to be better or faster on the course. They begin to see that if they put in the work, they are going to make progress and find success. Confidence breeds success, and success breeds more success.”
Rosa* had plans – to go to college, major in business, build a career – but all that changed when she found out she was pregnant. She dropped out of high school and found herself drifting, living sometimes with her parents, sometimes with her boyfriend, who is the father of her baby. When little Rodrigo was born, she became a stay-at-home mom.
This past summer, as her baby approached his first birthday, Rosa found out about the TCEC Teen Parents Program and realized that, through this resource, she had an opportunity to get her life back on track. It provided her with a safe place for her son to stay while she took the steps she needed to take, a place that was not only secure but would also provide a great learning experience for him. Turnquist’s infant and toddler programs ensure that even the littlest ones get the developmental support they need to grow up strong and ready for school.
With access to reliable transportation, Rosa can turn her life around, because she can get her son to childcare and herself to school on time. Now she attends the Minneapolis Community and Technical College five days a week, three hours a day.
This is hugely important to young moms like Rosa. Without childcare and transportation support, teen mothers face formidable obstacles. According to the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support, only 50% of teen mothers get their GED by age 22, and less than 2% of teen parents graduate from college by the age of 30. According to a 2014 Hennepin County study, only 32% of county-involved teen parents go on to graduate from high school and dropout rate is among the highest in the state.
Children of teen parents are more likely to:
“I am so happy I found this fantastic program,” she says. “The staff is caring and they always listen.” She is so grateful to have this invaluable resource. Without it, she might not have been able to reach her goals.
*Names are changed to protect privacy