Meet Priscilla Tapia, a lead teacher at San Diego Rescue Mission’s Haven of Hope, a licensed Preschool for 2-5-year-olds experiencing homelessness. Her work here began in March 2016, when a dear friend and former Rescue Mission staff member recommended her for a job opening.
Priscilla discovered her passion for working with children while studying Child and Family Development at San Diego State University. “I had an opportunity to work in different classroom settings and programs with a wide range of ages and populations. I knew I wanted to work with children in some capacity.”
Prior to the Rescue Mission, she held an internship at a Recovery Center that provided resources, support and services to children and families experiencing domestic violence, child abuse, homelessness and drug + alcohol abuse. That was the first time she saw behavioral challenges in a therapeutic setting and realized the effects of environmental stimuli on children’s development. It was an “aha” moment in her career.
“I realized there were so many ways I could make an impact in my community. Most importantly, I could apply my skills, experience and knowledge to be a light of support and a tool to help families understand, accept and overcome obstacles and hardships. This experience led me to apply, and see where God could lead me, here at the Mission.”
Her preschool classroom is a play-based and child-centered environment where the focus is on providing a safe and nurturing space for children to play, explore, learn, and connect with each other and themselves. Their social-emotional development is a top priority because many have experienced trauma. Among the ways that staff support students are mentoring, role playing, mediation, guiding words and behavior, problem solving, as well as encouraging healthy and safe emotional expression. In many cases, the preschool is the first-time children enjoy the space to rest and sleep in a peaceful environment and have the nutrition their bodies require.
“Our entire center and mission is based on our faith, admiration and love for Jesus. Seeing children praise God through songs as they sing how much Jesus loves them gives them empowerment and a sense of belonging, peace and purpose. He is the centerpiece.”
As someone who’s service-oriented and generous of spirit, Priscilla loves much about her work. Among the highlights, she reflects that the most fulfilling experience is when she can see a child smile, how far they’ve come with others and witness their overall growth.
“Just giving the children a safe space, and the notion that they can make decisions and discover the world with what they have to offer during this beautiful stage in their life, is an impact we’re all making every day.”
Priscilla says she is also thankful for the opportunity to grow in her faith and apply it in ways she hadn’t before—or could even imagine. “I work with the most supportive, goal-oriented, intelligent, wise, loving and professional staff and it makes coming here every day even more fun and fulfilling. I feel ready for what the day may bring. I’m being challenged daily but I’m also gaining skills and adapting to situations and responding to them.”
“These children are our future and it’s during this time that we can make the most impact while providing positive experiences, facilitating learning opportunities, forming strong and genuine relationships with them and aiding them in their attainment of significant life skills. We’re constantly posting the children’s artwork in the hallways for staff, parents and the many tours during the week—so please visit and see what the preschool’s been working on! I only hope that I’m giving as much as I’m gaining from working here at the SDRM Children’s Center. I’m proud of where I work and who I work with every day.”