Irma Sides began working with children at the age of 18. She began working at a daycare center owned and operated by her sister in law while taking courses at San Antonio College. Although Irma's position at the daycare was working in the kitchen, she often stepped in to help teachers with the children as needed. The exposure to working with children, watching them play and learn gave Irma the vision she saw for her future. But, a different vision had already been shown to her for many years. Irma longed to follow the family tradition and take her position in her sibling’s footsteps and serve her country.
Irma's older sister, Maria, had just completed a tour in the United States Air Force and signed up to serve in the Texas Air National Guard. Through Maria's encouragement and direction, Irma made the decision to join the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and became a Command and Control Specialist for the 149th Tactical Fighter Group at Kelly Air Force Base. After serving at the Guard for three years, Irma prepared to join the Air Force on active duty full time. But, something unexpected happened - Irma met her future husband. She married, gave birth to three beautiful daughters, and traveled with her husband as a military wife for 10 years before the marriage ended in divorce.
As a new single parent, Irma was determined to complete her education and make a better life for her young daughters. She studied sociology and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 2002 and a Master of Science in 2007. She studied child development, early childhood education, and social research. Her focus was on family dynamics and its effect on early development. While going to school full time, Irma worked full time as well. She has worked as a childcare worker, preschool teacher, social researcher, a program coordinator for a home visitation program, a substitute teacher, parent educator, and more recently as an early intervention specialist with the Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program.
In all these roles and experiences, Irma has had a firsthand look at the systems in place to help families with children facing potential developmental delays and learning disabilities. Irma found working with ECI especially troubling. She found it disheartening to acknowledge that many of the systems in place fell short at identifying children early on. Irma has found that in many cases, by the time children are evaluated by ECI there is little time left to help the children catch up. Irma's concern is for those children that need help. She understands that the only way to find them is to screen as many children as possible. She knows there is a need and continuing the trend of allowing children to fall through the cracks is too disturbing to go unchallenged.
Earlier this year, Irma had the idea of a program that would prioritize that one need – screening. It became her mission in August 2019 to lay a foundation for such an organization. She discussed her idea with a small group of professionals with similar concerns and As I Grow - San Antonio became a reality. By October, As I Grow - San Antonio became a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization.