Two years after Liliana Fuentes and her husband moved from San Antonio to Austin, their daughter Melanie was born prematurely. Melanie spent her first five months in the NICU. Doctors warned that Melanie might not survive, and if she did, she might not walk or talk. Miraculously, Melanie pulled through but required speech, occupational, and physical therapy after release from the NICU. Over time, Melanie defied the odds again, doing everything her doctors thought she wouldn’t. When she was two, her occupational therapist, who knew Liliana’s family well, recommended that Melanie interact more with children her age. After telling Liliana about AVANCE, the therapist called and registered her for PCEP.
Liliana left behind her family and friends when she moved, and when she started PCEP, she spent most of her time at home caring for Melanie. Adding to her feelings of isolation was the recent loss of her mother. Still, she knew PCEP would get her out of the house and be a good experience for Melanie. However, Melanie’s strong attachment made separation during classes difficult. On several occasions, Liliana considered dropping out because she felt so bad when Melanie cried. But the AVANCE team provided support during the adjustment and helped Liliana understand how PCEP would benefit her family.
Reassured, Liliana persisted, and gradually, Melanie adjusted to the separation. While Liliana learned about the importance of socialization, Melanie embraced her independence, engaging in program activities and making new friends. After graduating, Liliana kept in touch with her friends from PCEP, eventually leading to a Teaching Assistant position at AVANCE, where she is now a Program Assistant.
After PCEP, Melanie was prepared for Pre-K and ready to learn. Today, Melanie will soon enter fourth grade, and despite her shyness, she is confident, curious, and active. She loves the outdoors, exploring, and playing soccer. In fact, when she grows up, she wants to be a soccer coach. Or a reading teacher because that’s her favorite subject in school. She still has time to decide, but one thing is already evident. Melanie is on her way to a brighter future thanks to the support and perseverance of her mother and family.