Machelle Denison
Executive Director
Telephone # (519) 743-9578
Charitable # 825948060 RR0001

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We provide programs and services through community-wide partnerships to help children learn to read.

Program Story

Letters, Sounds and Words and Get Ready for School - A Volunteer's Perspective

My journey with Strong Start began in the winter of 2013. My daughter was in Senior Kindergarten when her teacher told me she was not demonstrating the necessary early literacy skills she needed to succeed in school. She recommended Strong Start's Letters, Sounds and Words program, informing me that she had seen other children go through the program, and drastically improve their literacy skills. She believed the same thing could happen for my daughter. Over the 10-week program, I witnessed my daughter excel, unlike anything I'd ever seen before! She went from knowing a few of her sounds to knowing them all! From being able to read a few words to being able to read a full book! Following the program, she was so confident with her literacy skills. I'll never forget the look of joy in her eyes. The program helped set her on a path for success in school. She continues to enjoy reading, and to this day, language studies is still one of her favourite subjects in school. After I saw the difference the program made for my daughter, I knew I wanted to get involved. I spoke with the school and looked into volunteering myself. I found that to be a Volunteer Coach, I needed to attend two, 2-hour training sessions, held at a school in my community. The training helped me feel prepared for the volunteer role and taught me how to work with a child. Soon after I completed the training, I found myself within my daughter's school as a Volunteer Coach. I enjoyed seeing my daughter in her school community and being part of her learning environment, while also helping other children and families. I volunteered my time on the days I was off from work, and very quickly found that my volunteer position provided a greater sense of accomplishment than my full-time career did at the time. I saw tremendous changes in the children I worked with. They made incredible gains in their language and literacy development, which they will use for the rest of their lives! This feeling of accomplishment gave me such fulfillment that I decided it was time to make a career change. "How can I do this for a living," I asked myself. I researched what was available at Conestoga College and found the Early Childhood Education diploma. I knew I had found what I wanted to do! After speaking with my family, I made the jump from full-time employment to full-time courses. Now in my final term of the Early Childhood Education program, I chose to complete my last placement with Strong Start's preschool program, Get Ready for School. I completed my placement as an Instructor in the program, helping children succeed in 4 community centres throughout Kitchener by preparing them for a successful entry into school. The power of Strong Start for children, families, and the educational system is unfathomable! This organization supports children in their development of language, literacy, and cognitive skills while aiding the teachers and supporting schools. Strong Start supports and engages community members, including families, and provides meaningful volunteer experiences. If I had not started volunteering in the Letters, Sounds and Words program, I would never have made such a tremendous revelation, changing career paths, and going back to school. The Strong Start program has changed my life and it has changed my daughter's life. With the experience I gained in both the Letters, Sounds and Words program and the Get Ready for School program, I will continue to teach within community programs, because I have witnessed their vast benefits to families in our society. If you've ever wanted to make a difference in  your own life and be involved with a charitable organization that values community partnership, and children's holistic development, take the time to look into Strong Start. I can't thank them enough for what they have done for me and my family. This story highlights two of Strong Start's programs. To learn more about the programs that Strong Start offers, visit their website:

Donation Impact

  • A gift of $900 provides the Get Ready for School program to one child in our community
  • A gift of $20 provides one class to a child in the Get Ready for School program
  • A gift of $100 provides the Letters, Sounds and Words program to one child in our community

Giving Opportunity

Financial gifts allow Strong Start to offer both our Letters, Sounds and Words and Get Ready for School program at no cost to the children or families who participate. As an organization, we provide the program materials, instructors (Get Ready for School), training, support and resources to implement our programs in schools and community centres across Waterloo Region. Gifts of time help ensure more young children are set on a path for success in school and in life. In our Letters, Sounds and Words program, volunteers work one-on-one with children in local schools over a 10-week period, playing fun games and activities. After completing two, 2-hour training sessions, volunteers from a variety of backgrounds and ages are able to get involved in supporting children. To learn more about this volunteer opportunity, please visit Volunteers in our Get Ready for School program support preschool aged children in free-play and small learning groups at local community centres. The minimum time commitment is 2 hours once a week, for several weeks. Training is provided. To learn more about this volunteer opportunity, please visit