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Graduation Day For Homeless Preschoolers In San Diego

Five-year-old Viviana King and her father Noel King pose for a photo before p...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: Five-year-old Viviana King and her father Noel King pose for a photo before preschool graduation at Father Joe's Villages in downtown San Diego at on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

Wednesday was graduation day for about two dozen four- and five-year-olds at the Therapeutic Childcare Center at Father Joe's Villages in San Diego's East Village. The majority of the children are homeless.

Teacher Mark Galindo said the program is the only one of its kind in San Diego. It provides therapists and psychologists to assess the needs of the children. Center officials say children who are homeless are four times as likely to have developmental delays and are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school.

"When they arrive here, they’re not on any kind of routine," Galindo said. "They’re in the adult world. They’re following their parents when their walking on the street or they’re a block ahead. They’re really surviving on their own wits.”

Galindo said the center provides structure in an otherwise unstructured world.

"When they come to that threshold, they know that from Monday to Friday when they’re attending, they know exactly what to expect on a daily basis. Including snacks and lunch. Including having a roof over their heads. But also their friends that come in to visit with them. It’s just that routine that saves the day, that allows them to learn and thrive,” he said.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

The Therapeutic Childcare Center at Father Joe's Villages helps around 300 children in downtown San Diego, pictured on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

Viviana King was one of the graduates. After a few nervous tears, she sang a song for the audience: "Un Poco Loco" from the movie "Coco."

Viviana and her mother, Kristina LeMoine, lived at Father Joe's Villages in 2016. When they left the shelter a year later, LeMoine kept Viviana enrolled at the center. LeMoine said the people at the center were "kind of like family. They’re basically like her second home.”

LeMoine said she couldn’t have looked for work during the day and gotten back on her feet without the preschool.

“I appreciated the therapy part of it, and the support I had to help keep her off the streets during the days...it kind of gave me a stability for her,” she said.

LeMoine and Viviana live with family in Southcrest now. Viviana starts kindergarten at Cesar Chavez Elementary school in August.

Video by Katie Schoolov

About two dozen four- and five-year-olds graduated Wednesday from the Therapeutic Childcare Center at Father Joe's Villages. The majority of the children are homeless.

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