35 for 35: Jennifer Receives CDA Certification

Jennifer is a mom to three kids, ages 16, ten, and five, living at The Springs Apartments in Arlington. She has lived in the area since 2004 and enjoys the Arlington community. Jennifer and her family have “come a long way and been stable for the last 7 years, which is a big plus,” she says.

Jennifer with her three children.

She has a wide variety of professional skills, including culinary experience, nursing, and now Jennifer is a teaching assistant at Apple Tree, an early childhood education facility. She became a teaching assistant in August of 2022 and completed her Child Development Associate (CDA) certification, a credential similar to an associate degree, in December of 2023. Although she encountered a roadblock, she persevered and gained the certification thanks to her skill, passion, and assistance from APAH staff. 

Jennifer started in the extended-day program at Apple Tree because she has prior experience working at daycare facilities. “The principal would always throw me in the classroom because she trusted me,” she says. During her employment, positions and working hours shifted. Initially, she enjoyed a full-time schedule, but her hours were cut, and she transitioned to part-time. Extended-day program employees like Jennifer were not getting benefits or time off anymore, but she enjoyed a good relationship with her employer, and they offered her the CDA credential training in December of 2022. This credential is encouraged or required for many local early childhood learning centers, a positive step for Jennifer’s career and for her family. 

Jennifer, or Ms. Jenn to her students, was able to regain a full-time position thanks to her training, work ethic, and great relationships at the school with colleagues and children. She finished her training course last summer but faced difficulty covering tuition on a part-time salary, risking her ability to complete the certification. After speaking with Brandon Young and Genesis Villanueva on the Resident Services team, APAH offered to cover her tuition balance from the resident emergency fund so that Jennifer could complete her final exam and classroom observation.  

She describes her state of mind going into the exam as “having anxiety through the roof! Being watched is difficult, so taking the test and waiting for observation to see how you engage with the kids made me so nervous.” But Jennifer’s hard work paid off. She passed and gained the CDA credential. The woman who observed Ms. Jenn in the classroom was kind and complimentary, telling her “to learn how to give herself grace.”  

As a single mom who is always on the go, Jennifer’s goals are to give herself grace and continue to further her education. In fact, the observer recommended a scholarship program and encouraged Jennifer to lean into special education while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. 

Jennifer has faced significant setbacks in her life, including health conditions, concerns about familial stability, and subsequent mental health challenges. Her resiliency and love for her children and students allowed her to persevere. She loves working in the classroom because she “makes a difference to the students who come to school for change. They are excited to be in the classroom because its different than what they see at home.” She also expresses gratitude to the APAH team that lent a hand when she needed it and is ready to “get this show on the road!”