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Beginning the Work of Family Engagement in a Small Community

My first task as a Family Engagement Specialist in Burkesville, Kentucky was to provide a program for the families in the middle school called Families And Schools Together (FAST). FAST is an eight week program that supports parents and student bonding.   Burkesville has a population of 6,789 where all students are served by three schools – one elementary, one middle and one high school. Cumberland County is a very rural community with no large industry.  Over seventy-five percent of the students qualify for free or reduced meals.  My team and I had two weeks to get the word out to the families of the 210 students at Cumberland County Middle School about our upcoming program.

Initially, reaching all these families in two weeks seemed overwhelming.  My team and I made flyers to distribute at Open House and followed up by sending the flyers home with report cards.  Then, in order to build relationships with families, I made phone calls with families to discuss their student’s current grades and what the school currently offered to raise their grades.  Families started asking questions about different options for tutoring.  They would ask to schedule parent-teacher conferences and request that I attend as well.  I made it a point to sit next to the family during these parent-teacher conferences.  Not long after I started this I started getting phone calls at school from parents inquiring about their child’s grades or behaviors, and I was always completely honest and assisted them with some sort of solution or resolution.

Two weeks is still a short amount of time to get a program off the group, so made an extra effort and sent out 18 personal invitations to families.  14 families attend the first night and 14 families graduated the program eight weeks later.   We saw drastic improvement with two of the student’s grades and saw each student’s confidence increase weekly.   Relationships grew between student and parent, student and teacher, and with teacher and parent.  I had one father approach me and stated “this is the best program I have ever been to.”   Families prove again and again that they want to be engaged in their child’s education.

The FAST program was a great way to begin family engagement in Cumberland County.  I am excited about all the other opportunities that lie ahead for our families.

 This edition of the Family Partnership blog is brought to  you by Casey Perdue.   Casey serves as the Family Engagement Specialist in Cumberland County, through GEAR UP Promise Zone. 

Protective Factors: Highlighting Social Connections

http://www.whatmakesyourfamilystrong.org/Social-Connections.html

http://www.whatmakesyourfamilystrong.org/Social-Connections.html

Social Connections are the friends and families who support us.  These connections are important for everyone, but particularly for families and their children.  In the busy world of going to work, making dinner, helping the kids with homework, and getting the kids to bed, how to you find time to make new friends or maintain the friendships you have? 

www.whatmakesyourfamilystrong.org suggests the following to encourage social connections

“Host a get-together and have guests bring a friend”

Whether at your house or at a local park, organizing a pot-luck means you don’t have to provide all the food.  Choosing a location that allows a space for kids to play allows other parents who don’t have child-care to come as well.

“Join a group with people that have common interests”

A great site to help you do this is http://www.meetup.com/ .  With interests from ranging from cooking to the great outdoors, to parenting, this is a great way to connect with other people in your area.  If you can’t find a meetup in your area, consider starting one.  Start a book club, a movie group, or a walking group and ask people to invite others to these as well.

“Keep in touch with family and friends”

Cell phones, video chats, and Facebook make staying in touch with family and friends easier than it’s ever been, but it still takes an effort.  If you won’t be able to see family or friends due to time constraints or distance, make an effort to send them a message tell them how much you appreciate them.    Let your family and friends know when you are going to be overly busy, so they know to expect to see less of you.

“Participate in community events”

Whether it’s The Small Town America Festival in Mount Sterling, a local baseball game or your community’s homecoming, these events bring community together.   Invite other friends to go with you. Click here to check out more local festivals http://www.wskvfm.com/festivals.html

“Be a volunteer”

Volunteering is great for you and for your family.  Try to find opportunities when you might be able to volunteer with your family.  Take one of your children to the local nursing home or participate in a clean-up day at the park.  If you don’t feel like there are many opportunities for volunteering in your community, remember that you can create opportunities.    Does an elderly neighbor need some yard work done?  Organize a few families to make it happen.  See the following link to further explore getting involved in community service with your family:  http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/volunteer.html#

 

Building social connections isn’t always easy.  It means taking initiative and making time for the friends you make.   But all the effort you put into making the connections is making your family stronger.

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