EVERETT — A little girl toddled up to Jade Phillips at the coloring table. They connected on day one.
Jade, 16, has volunteered with Housing Hope for two years. Twice a week she cares for children while their parents attend life skills classes. Jade met the 2-year-old girl on her first night volunteering. After that, she was hooked.
Housing Hope provides housing services to people in Snohomish County and Camano Island.
It is not always enough to find a home, spokeswoman Sara Haner said. She believes people need to know how to care for a home and also how to be a good employee.
That is where College of Hope comes in. Classes touch on four categories: family life, economic well-being, health and wellness and housing expertise. People can enroll in classes on housekeeping, budgeting, single parenting, anger management and more.
Transportation, dinner and child care also are provided for free.
The goal is to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, Haner said.
“They make it so if you have any barriers, they make everything available,” said Jamahna RiAll, 29, who has attended many of the classes.
Volunteers play a major role in the organization. Without child care, many parents such as RiAll might not be able to attend classes.
“We’ll read to them, play,” Jade said.
RiAll has three children: ages 4, 6 and 8. One of the College of Hope classes she took focused on single parenting. The class helped her understand the developmental stages her children go through and why they behave certain ways, she said.
She also found camaraderie. Fellow parents shared stories about the challenges of bundling up a child for colder weather who doesn’t want a coat. Some asked for advice on how to explain an absent parent.
Ron Berry, 45, swears by the program. He had grown up in an abusive home. He wanted to give his kids a better upbringing.
“I’m a father who loves his children, that’s absolutely true, but I’ve make some mistakes along the way,” Berry said. “It’s never too late to learn.”
The lessons aren’t limited to the classroom. Jade teaches children interpersonal and communication skills.
A boy, a regular in child care, had a tendency to act out.
“He always had so much energy and was so destructive,” she said.
Eventually, when the boy began to feel angry, he would tell Jade. They would talk through it together.
Over the past two years, Jade watched these kids grow up. She sees the program making a difference.
Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about College of Hope, go to www.housinghope.org/college-of-hope.