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Early Works Update, Spring to Summer 2014


earlyworks logoEarl Boyles Elementary:
Preschool Planning. Approximately 70 families of 3- and 4-year-old children completed their Earl Boyles preschool application in May. The 90 preschool spots available in the new Early Learning Wing are nearly filled. Educators are excited to be part of building a system at Earl Boyles that seamlessly aligns early childhood with the elementary years. More than 50 candidates applied for the two available preschool teaching positions, and the final teaching team includes a mix of expertise in kindergarten, Head Start, and Early Childhood Special Education.
Family Engagement. The 2013-14 school year focused on making Parents United systems sustainable and building leadership. 2014-15 will focus on increasing birth-to-8 family engagement and health services in the new Earl Boyles Neighborhood Center.
Health. Early Works partners launched a Health Committee this spring and are preparing for a Community Health Assessment. The assessment will ultimately inform the visioning process for the Neighborhood Center, which will open this fall.


Yoncalla Elementary:
Building Community. Yoncalla hosted a successful Dr. Seuss night with 327 attendees that had the dual purpose of increasing the number of families that see the school as a place they are welcome and connecting families to needed services. The school hosted a smaller Geography Night in June that drew 100 attendees to involve families in student learning. Local leadership is already planning for the 2014-15 school year.
Family Engagement. The Family Room, located at the school, is open and hosting programs for families. Becca Pope, the AmeriCorps staffer who manages the Family Room, is hosting weekly playgroups for families with children birth to 5, and has had 10 families participate so far. She's also facilitating volunteer opportunities to support the K-3 teachers and bringing in guest speakers for families with small children and K-3 teachers.
Child Care and Early Education. The child care/educator work group has agreed to ensure local preschool and child care providers in Yoncalla receive professional development on child assessments that could inform their work with children.

Early Works Blogs

  • A busy September at Yoncalla Early Works

    9.2015-blogThere are muffins and goldfish crackers and juice boxes. There are infant mats on the floor, along with toys and books. Plenty of books.

    And in the Family Room at Yoncalla Elementary School every morning this week, there have also been Yoncalla families – parents of infants and toddlers – getting their introduction to what the Yoncalla Family Room and the Early Works initiative is all about.

    Yoncalla Early Works is an initiative of the Ford Family Foundation, the Children’s Institute, the Yoncalla school district and other local partners. Its mission: to bring parents, the school and the community together to meet the needs of children – prenatally to age eight – and to ensure every child is prepared for kindergarten and school success.

    “A vital component in fulfilling that mission is to engage families – to ensure the school building is a welcoming place for families and that parents and educators are partners in supporting children’s learning and development,” says Dana Hepper, the Children’s Institute’s director of policy and program.

    As the school year has begun again at Yoncalla Elementary, coordinators of the Family Room – located on one wing of the elementary school – are working to be as engaging for families as possible.

    The North Douglas County Family Relief Nursery has been coordinating activities in the Yoncalla Family Room for the past several months. Erin Helgren, program director for the relief nursery, is helping to host this week’s open houses at the Family Room – through tomorrow (Sept. 17). Beginning next week, the Family Room will host a weekly infant/caregiver class for families with young children. And beginning next Wednesday, the  Family Room will begin hosting weekly “Mommy and me” mixed-age playgroups for children and parents.

    Helgren said she hopes these gatherings will be only the start – that Yoncalla families will make other suggestions for services the Family Room and Yoncalla Early Works might be able to offer throughout this school year.

     “Our underlying intention is to have conversations with families to help identify services they’re interested in seeing, and at times that are convenient for them,” Helgren says. “We’re really trying to create a schedule driven by the community and families. We’d rather do a play group at a time when it’s most convenient for families to participate.”

    This is the third year for Yoncalla Early Works and will be the first full school year in which North Douglas County Family Relief Nursery is overseeing the Family Room. Helgren said she’s noticing that more Yoncalla families are wanting to learn more about Early Works and get involved. She says Yoncalla families with infants seem especially interested in participating.

    Helgren says the Family Room will build on past work while creating new programs that can help families, and guide them in helping their children develop and learn.

    “I think it’s a really exciting time for Yoncalla Early Works,” Helgren says. “Families are starting to trust Early Works is going to be here for them.”

    Read more

  • Earl Boyles parent represents community at national family engagement conference

    Andreina-AdrianaEarl Boyles Elementary School parent Adriana Govea had never been on an airplane before last week. But on June 22, she and Andreina Velasco, the Children’s Institute’s Early Works site liaison at Earl Boyles, boarded a plane to Chicago for the Institute for Educational Leadership’s 2015 National Family and Community Engagement Conference, “Shaping Our Future by Leading Together.”

    Adriana readily faced her trepidation about her first flight – and soon learned that flying was kind of fun – in order to represent the Earl Boyles community at the institute’s second annual conference, which brought together 1,200 participants from all sectors of the educational community to talk about the importance of family engagement in children’s learning. Adriana, a member and former co-facilitator of Parents United, an Earl Boyles parents group, plays an active role in the parent engagement activities happening at Earl Boyles, including planning for the school’s neighborhood center. Adriana’s son, Matthew, just finished third grade at Earl Boyles.

    But Adriana and Andreina were not just conference attendees. They were also asked to conduct a workshop, “From Showing Up to Leading the Way: Building a Continuum for Family Engagement.” The workshop was an important opportunity for them and for the Children’s Institute to share some lessons learned from the Early Works initiative at Earl Boyles with a group of national experts. It also gave Andreina and Adriana a chance to learn from the other communities that are part of the growing national movement for family engagement.

    The presentation highlighted the array of possible family engagement activities and programs – from attendance to parent leadership – and helped to start a discussion about how others are undertaking similar work.  Although Adriana started off her presentation a bit shy, by the end she said she felt secure and confident. “I feel very important because I am someone who hasn’t been to college, and I am here speaking to all of these people who have,” she says.

    Andreina Velasco says she was “blown away” by the conference. “It was the best conference I have ever been to,” she says.

    She says a standout moment was a speech by parent Rosazlia Grillier, co-chair of POWER-PAC, a parent-led cross-cultural organization of low-income parents from Chicago. “Rosazlia is a testament to what can happen when parents are organized,” Andreina says.

    Rosazilia demonstrated that the most authentic way to build success is by having families interact with families, Andreina says. The point was underscored by Ralph Smith, senior vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, an initiative working to ensure more children in low-income families are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Smith emphasized that schools must set up opportunities to get out of the way – to create spaces and processes that give parents the opportunity to lead and succeed.

    Adriana says she has similar opinions about why it is important to give parents a voice – and why she feels thankful to be a part of the parent engagement work at Earl Boyles. “It is very important to demonstrate the power of the parents, and also important that the schools - or whoever is in charge of the system - aren’t judging parents but helping and supporting them,” she says. “It is important that they see the love that parents have for their children, and that we all leave fear behind for the love of our kids, so that anything is possible.”

    Adriana and Andreina both believe that schools must encourage the vital partnership between schools and parents in children’s education.

    Adriana’s enthusiasm for professional development around family engagement has only increased since the conference, and her new ambition is to make sure more Earl Boyles parents have the opportunity to participate in family engagement conferences and programs in the future. “They have the potential,” she says. “I would like to share more, and give them the opportunity.”

    And so, of course, would the Children’s Institute.

    Read more

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