I Am Project HOME: Priscilla Bennett
The kids enter the classroom bursting with energy, loud and boisterous. Within a few moments, with her strong but gentle presence, Miss T has them focused, attentive, eager to learn, and open to another day of possibilities at the Honickman Learning and Center Comcast Technology Labs (HLCCTL).
Watching Priscilla Bennett – or Miss T as everyone knows her – in her Kindergarten-1st Grade classroom, her loveand passion for these children are evident. It is clear that she grasps the frailties and challenges of her young chargesfrom this economically struggling neighborhood, but also sees their potential to learn and grow – what she calls “the fire in their eyes.”
Miss T is a veteran of 17 years with Project HOME. She started volunteering at our Diamond Street After-school program during our early years in the neighborhood, and was hired in 1993 to assist with the program, which eventually moved to the HLCCTL. She is a product of the Diamond Street neighborhood.
“I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve watched these children all their lives.” She notes that some of the children from the Diamond Street program now have their own children in the HLCCTL. In an effort to more deeply understand the issues and enhance her skills, she received a degree in Early Childhood Education from Chestnut Hill College last December, and is now working on a master’s degree in clinical psychology, with a focus on childhood and adolescent therapy.
“We want to link home, school, and after school, so we can deal with the whole child,” says Miss T. “So little in their life is consistent, so if we can be a consistency, we have a chance to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.” She frequently intervenes to support families or to advocate for necessary services from school or service agencies. Recognizing that healthy children need a healthy community, she engages in much community organizing and advocacy, responding to neighborhood issues and concerns.
Miss T, who has two grown children of her own, insists that “children will be what they see.” To her, the most important gift is what she and the staff can model. “Weall want to be a positive presence in their lives.” It’s abundantly clear that Miss T is a positive presence – to the children, to the community, and to all of us at Project HOME.