Carime Ruvalcaba: Breaking New Ground in Nebraska

March 22, 2023

Carime came to Nebraska from Mexico 24 years ago to build a future. It was a challenge because she had to leave her family behind, learn a new language and leap over several bureaucratic hurdles to stay here and hold a job. Yet she has managed to thrive after spending 14 years working in a plant that processed meat. In 2017, she opened Karime Child Care with aid from Rural Prosperity Nebraska’s Latino Small Business Program. Her family child care home broke new ground as the first bilingual day care in Grand Island, a city in central Nebraska. And Carime set a second precedent in ECE by becoming the first bilingual provider in the state to earn a Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™.

She learned about the CDA® in 2020, when the pandemic forced her flourishing business to close its doors for some time. “I came across an announcement on Facebook,” she recalls, “about CDA training through the Early Learning Connection in Omaha, NE. I wanted to advance my skills and earn more as an ECE provider, so I filled out all the information required to sign up. Soon I received all the books and materials I needed to do my CDA® Professional Portfolio. The Nebraska Department of Education paid for all of it since the state has one of the nation’s biggest shortages of the child care families need.”

The gap is even greater for Hispanic families who want quality bilingual child care, Carime points out. “Few Spanish-speaking providers have a license because all the licensing documents are in English.” And while the CDA materials are in Spanish, there’s an added requirement that stops many of the providers from working toward their CDA. “You need to have a high school diploma or GED,” she explains, “to hold your CDA, and most Spanish-speaking providers in my area, unlike me, have not graduated from high school. And yet another roadblock is that there aren’t many bilingual PD Specialists in the state,” Carime says, “so I had to wait two months to get my observation.”

The wait was worth it, Carime says, “because earning a CDA helped me reach a new level as an early childhood professional. And it made me understand what it means to educate children instead of just serving as a babysitter for them. Besides, earning a CDA qualified me to take many other types of courses to develop in my field. I believe you should never stop learning, so I’ve taken over 300 hours of training, most recently a ‘whole body’ course on self-care and building a sense of community with parents. So, I’ve continued to advance my skills. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but I’ve implemented everything I’ve learned from my CDA and other trainings in the classroom. That makes it easier to work with the children and get them ready for school.”

Carime’s expertise puts her in high demand, and she has a long wait list for her day care. “Having a CDA is a guarantee to parents that I will give their children good, quality child care,” she says. “I know the right toys and routines that will help children grow and take advantage of opportunities to learn.” Her language skills are also a selling point, Carime explains, since she offers everything in her program in both English and Spanish. “We mostly speak Spanish because the parents don’t want their children to forget the language, and that doesn’t lead to any problems after the children leave my program. When they get to kindergarten, they also learn English very fast.”

But that didn’t seem to be in the cards for two young Guatemalan boys, whose parents begged Carime to accept them in her day care after a long wait for spots. “The boys were two- and three- years old, and neither of them talked,” Carime recalls. “Instead, they were crying all the time, and it was clear that the parents needed my help. So, I accepted the two boys, and after a few weeks I realized they both were autistic and required early intervention. The parents didn’t know what autism was, but they believed me. So, I helped them find an organization that would give the brothers the services that they needed. Now they’re both learning to speak, and the older boy is doing fine in school.”

Carime made a difference for that family, and she’s made a positive impact on the lives of many other immigrant families. “When the families come here,” she says, “they face many of the same challenges as I did: learning the language, filling out many forms, figuring out the best place to live, and finding out where to send their children to school. Sometimes, they don’t know where to find help, so I give them advice. And I have the training to assist them with the issues they face.”

The community has recognized the value of the work she does by giving her several awards. The Center for Rural Affairs named her the 2021 Entrepreneurial Woman. The Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative has honored her twice as Provider of the Month. This March she made the news as an Early Childhood Champion for her services to the families and children of Grand Island. And all the praise gives Carime a platform to talk about what really matters to her. “I want to show other bilingual providers,” she says, “that they can succeed and make an impact, too.”

So, Carime is giving her ideas and time to increase the ranks of bilingual professionals in Nebraska. “I’m a member of the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Leadership Cadre, a project of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, which brings together ECE professionals who explore ways to boost the quality and quantity of educators in the state. And I am also part of the campaign We Care for Kids, or Por Todos los Niños, a collaboration between state and community organizations to ensure that all Nebraska families have access to quality early childhood education for their children.”

That depends on having enough qualified teachers, so Carime also volunteers in a support group for Hispanic providers who want to get training or become licensed. She has put together a manual with step-by-step instructions in Spanish on obtaining a license in Nebraska and she has become certified to provide Safe with You training to Hispanic providers. In addition, she encourages other bilingual providers to invest the time and effort it takes to earn a CDA. She knows this will help the providers move their careers ahead and make a major impact on the state. “When we invest in helping children thrive,” she says, “we build thriving families and that leads communities to also thrive.”


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