December 1, Narberth PA—Wonderspring Early Education, a nonprofit provider of high-quality, safe, convenient, and affordable early childhood education throughout Greater Philadelphia, is pleased to welcome Charles Bragitikos and Rafael Sonder to its Board of Directors.
Bragitikos is a principal and co-founder of Vibrant Development Group and Vibrant Ventures. At Vibrant Development Group, where he works with gaming companies, developers, professional sports teams, and the public sector on conceiving and developing large-scale, mixed-use destination projects. Through Vibrant Ventures, he creates and invests in select dining and entertainment concepts. In addition to serving on Wonderspring’s board, Bragitikos sits on the Board of Directors of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership and serves as clerk of the finance committee at Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting. He is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Bragitikos says he was inspired to join Wonderspring’s board because of the positive impact it has on children. “Wonderspring checked all the boxes for me,” he says. “They have a heart-felt mission that resonated with me, a passionate and driven CEO, and a terrific set of committed Board members. I am excited and honored to join this incredible group.”
Sonder has 20 years of experience working in Finance, Strategy and Management. Currently, he serves as CFO of WatchBox, a global luxury-goods e-commerce company based in Bala Cynwyd, PA. Previously, for 15 years, he held various positions working for one of Latin America’s largest private equity asset managers,Tarpon Ivestimentos. Sonder holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University and an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
“Education has always been a passion for me for the way it can change a person’s life,” says Sonder. “I am inspired by the Wonderspring’s mission and the energy of its staff. The Management team and the Board take their responsibility to the children and the families very seriously. It is a privilege for me to contribute my personal and professional experiences to help advance their mission.”.
Wonderspring operates in nine locations throughout the region and will open a brand-new early learning center, New Market West, at 59th and Market streets in Philadelphia in 2021. In addition to its early education centers, Wonderspring offers school-age programs to ensure children receive educational experiences and care before and after the school day as well as homework assistance and care for virtual learners. The organization’s summer camp for children entering Kindergarten through 6th grade offers weekly themed sessions that provide opportunities for fun, exploration and learning throughout the summer. For more information, visit wonderspring.org.
Ask Amanda Rubiano what one word most describes Wonderspring and she will tell you it is FAMILY.
Before her daughter Amiyah started at the Powelton Village center three years ago, Amanda had been a stay at home mom. So, understandably she had some reservations about returning to work and putting Amiyah in care. But those reservations quickly faded.
“From the very first day, we felt so welcomed, it put us immediately at ease,” she recalls. “The staff was great about staying in touch and letting us know how Amiyah was doing. They sent photos and texts and emails, so I felt like I was connected to her day.”
And it wasn’t long before Amiyah was equally comfortable at Wonderspring. “Initially, Amiyah had a hard time adjusting and clung to me at drop off, but the teachers did such an incredible job helping her get acclimated that now she runs off happily with her teacher. It is amazing to see how much she has progressed and how independent she has become.”
In fact, Amiyah and her two-and-a-half-year-old sister Ariyah feel so at home at Wonderspring, that even on days they aren’t in school they follow their Wonderspring routines. “When they are home, they sing the songs they learn at school, do their ABCs and numbers and even pretend they are having circle time or playing with their school friends,” says Amanda.
Amanda and her partner Isaiah were particularly grateful that Wonderspring stayed so connected to their family during the COVID-19 lockdown. “Their teachers regularly checked in with us and interacted with the kids through facetime and Zoom,” she says. “They also sent lesson plans and activities for the kids to work on every week. I was still working, and Isaiah was home with them all day, so he really appreciated having ways to keep the kids busy and engaged.
I trust Wonderspring to care for my kids because it is such a family-oriented place and everyone on staff is so caring. There’s a real sense of community.
Help ensure that all children have access to high quality care and education. Make a gift to the Harwood Scholarship fund so more children can be part of the Wonderspring family. Wonderspring is a nonprofit organization and all donations are tax deductible.
For Karl and Michael Martinez, Wonderspring’s school age
program for virtual learners was a lifeline
Michael Martinez began attending Wonderspring’s before- and after-school program at Ridge Park when he was in Kindergarten. From the very beginning, his father Karl could see the positive impact the program was having on his son.
“Before starting at Wonderspring, Michael didn’t have a lot of friends,” says Karl. “He was extremely shy and used to stay off to the side on his own. But at Wonderspring he started making friends and since then, he’s made leaps and bounds socially. He joins groups, plays games and takes part in activities. So much of that progress is due to the program at Wonderspring.”
Karl, a single parent who works as a recruiter, was always grateful for the quality of care his son received at Wonderspring and for the attentive staff who helped nurture his son’s social development. But this fall, that gratitude magnified exponentially.
“When the pandemic hit and everything closed, I was home trying to juggle working and teaching my son,” he says. “It was a nightmare for both of us. I wasn’t getting much work done and I wasn’t doing a great job helping him. Then when I had to go back to the office, the Colonial school district announced they were going to open 100 percent virtual. I really didn’t know what I was going to do. Thank God Wonderspring offered the online virtual support program. It has been an absolute lifesaver.
“The program has allowed us both to get back into normal routine. Michael felt like he was back at school learning with other kids and I was able to go back work and be productive. I can’t tell you how much of a help that has been. “
While learning virtually was initially a bit of an adjustment, Karl says Michael adapted quickly and that the teachers at Wonderspring have been incredibly supportive. “When Michael’s school-issued device stopped working Leandra was able help him get a replacement right away,” he says.
And overall, Michael is happier. “When we were stuck at home, he was so isolated,” says Karl. “The only people he saw were on Zoom. Going back to Wonderspring, he really appreciated that he could socialize and be around kids his age. He’s even made some new friends.”
You can be a lifeline to a family like Michael’s. Make a donation to our Scholarship Fund and help ensure all children have the benefit of high-quality care.
2020 has been a challenging year in so many ways. But each day at Wonderspring, we find new reasons to smile. Whether it is watching a child take his first steps or read her first words or make a discovery through exploratory play, we find joy in watching children develop and grow.
This year as we approach Giving Tuesday, we’re going to share some of the many stories that illustrate the impact that Wonderspring has had on children and families throughout the region as well as why our donors support Wonderspring. We hope that these stories will inspire you to help us expand access to high-quality early education and care to more children by contributing to our scholarship fund.
This year, the need for scholarship funds is greater than ever. But your tax deductible gift can help make sure we don’t have to turn children away. What’s more, our Giving Tuesday Sponsor Exude is helping to match donations we receive.
To make a donation to our Harwood Scholarship Fund, simply click the button below. Thank you for your support of Wonderspring and our mission as a non-profit to help families thrive by providing safe, convenient, and highest quality learning opportunities and care for children in Greater Philadelphia.
As a nonprofit that strives to ensure access to high-quality learning and care to all children, Wonderspring is committed to advancing diversity equity and inclusion both in our employment practices as well as our services for children. Thus, we are thrilled to announce that with the support of the William Penn Foundation, Wonderspring is working with two Diversity Fellows from Temple University’s Diversifying Early Education Leadership program (DEEL@Temple). Our new Fellows will to assist the organization in achieving its goals of:
nurturing a culture of diversity equity and inclusion among staff
supporting teaching practices that acknowledge and respect multiple cultures, languages and practices in the classroom
proactively recruiting and developing the talents of ethnically diverse persons for administrative and leadership positions.
We are thrilled to welcome Diversity Fellows Sophia Ezomoghene and Omosi Anabui.
Sophia Ezomoghene is a lead early childhood literacy specialist for the Free Library of Philadelphia. She began her career in education as an AmeriCorps volunteer at an alternative high school serving older and underserved students. Later she taught prekindergarten and kindergarten at a charter school in Washington, DC. Before joining the Free Library of Philadelphia, she was a Head Start teacher for the School District of Philadelphia. Sophia earned her undergraduate degree in Political Science and International Affairs from Northeastern University, as well as her Master’s in Education from American University.
Omosi Anabui is an Impact Manager at City Year Philadelphia where much of her work is focused on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. She guides a team of 12 young adults looking to create equitable interventions spaces that enable students who attend Forrest Elementary School to have critical conversations about race and other parts of identity. Omosi has a Bachelor’s degree in Biopsychology and has served as an Americorps Member and Team Leader.
As we embark on this critical effort, we will be soliciting the input of our families and stakeholders. We look forward to working together to ensure all voices are heard and that all of our children, families and staff are valued and engaged.