Kidnapping survivor Amanda Berry captivated an audience at Cleveland’s Global Center for Health Innovation Thursday, discussing the challenges she overcame raising her daughter in captivity.
Berry was kidnapped in the day before her seventeenth birthday in 2003 by Cleveland resident Ariel Castro. Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were imprisoned in Castro’s home for more than a decade. He also fathered Berry’s daughter Jocelyn.
On May 6, 2013 they escaped and Castro, 53, later pled guilty in July 2013 to 937 charges relating to kidnapping, torturing and imprisoning the three women. On Sept. 3, 2013, he was found dead in his prison cell after committing suicide.
Berry spoke at a luncheon benefit for The Centers for Families and Children to talk about the importance of early learning.
She said that despite her circumstances, she was determined that her daughter would learn and grow like other children.
“The most inspiring part of the Amanda Berry story is that she created a little school in the house on Seymour Avenue,” Mary Jordan, who helped Berry and DeJesus write their book Hope: a Memoir of Survival.
Berry posted the alphabet, shapes and colors on the walls and taught Jocelyn addition and subtraction.
When the family escaped and Jocelyn went to first grade, her reading level was a grade above the rest of her classmates.
“I just wanted her to know that when she got out that she was going to be as normal as any kid in the classroom,” Berry said.
Elizabeth Newman, CEO of the Centers for Families and Children, told newsnet5.com that Berry set an inspirational example for the importance of early learning.
“Cleveland schools will tell you they’re seeing more and more children that arrive on the first day of school they’ve never seen the inside of a classroom, they’ve never had exposure to those materials,” Newman said. “For her, it was instinct.”
The Centers provide childcare and preschool programs and encourages parents to help give their child the best early learning experiences they can for as many of the first 2,000 days of their lives.