Together We…Are Bold in the Face of Adversity

With more than 17 years of experience working with children and six years with Think Together, Joana Lafuente has the right tools to make an impact on students in our General Childcare and Development (CCTR) Early Learning Program. This program grew out of necessity due to the pandemic and now Joana is leading the charge along with coaching, mentoring and supporting our partners with consistent and quality educational learning.  We are excited to give you the opportunity to learn more about Joana! 

What is your Think Together “why?” What inspired you to work at Think Together and what continues to inspire your work here. 

Our mission of changing the odds for kids is always my inspiration. It has been my passion to work with children and the reason I have been doing it for 17 years. My journey in this world is to make an impact on children, families, and educational partners. The programs we offer are created with not only children in mind, but the families are involved, too. This is why I love what I do.

What is CCTR and how does it operate?

CCTR is a family childcare home education network. Our program consists of three components: Our partner, the family childcare providers, and licensed homes. Our education specialists meet with the providers monthly to be able to coach, mentor, and support our partners in providing consistent quality programs. The education specialists work hand in hand with the family childcare providers and families to gather observations to determine the child’s developmental level at the start of the program, the six-month mark and at the end of the program.  Families must apply and are approved based on eligibility and need according to priority. Our children are placed with providers that the families get to choose, and each provider follows their home routine. 

Is there a student story that connects you to your “why?”

Early learning has become more of a focus after the pandemic and there are many programs that our families and children appreciate. Programs like CCTR, family childcare providers, and other child development centers were able to stay open during the pandemic which was essential to keeping students on the right educational path. The family testimonial below is part of my “why,” being able to provide quality services to families in need

“I immigrated from Colombia, after coming across Think Together services I was able to enroll my child in the CCTR program. The first week was so hard for me and my daughter as I had to leave her in a childcare program. After the first week I told myself I was going to stop working and not take my child anymore to childcare as I kept questioning myself if I was doing the right thing. I spoke to my family childcare provider, and she assured me that my daughter was doing good and if there was any concern, she will call me to let me know. I can say that my daughter now cries when I pick her up because she does not want to come home with me. This speaks to how safe my child feels being in childcare and brings me peace of mind to know she is being cared for while I go to work.”

Chavely Naranjo CCTR mom

What is something you wish more people knew about early learning programs?

Early learning paves the way for learning at school and throughout life. What children learn in their first few years of life – and how they learn it – can have long-lasting effects on their success and health as children, teens, and adults. I am an advocate for early learning and hope to inspire others as well. #ECEAdvocacy

What is a mantra, affirmation, or quote that has helped you over the years? Why?

Live with intention, be bold in the face of adversity, and live the life you were destined for.

I have this quote on my desk, and it has followed me throughout my career. It speaks to me because it reminds me to be genuine in what I do, and my life is what I want it to be.

What are your professional goals or resolution for the new year?

 My professional goal is to grow my team in CCTR and to continue to provide quality and intentional support. A resolution for this new year is to continue investing in myself to be able to continue to provide support and be an exemplary leader to my team, providers, partners, families, and children.

Outside of work, what do you do for fun?  

I am a homebody. I love to just be home and spend time with my kids and husband. I also love to go to Disneyland. This year I plan on traveling more and visiting more places outside of my county. I want to go on a cruise, or maybe two!