Literacy for Life program empowers parents

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

Literacy for Life’s latest initiative continues its efforts to educate the community in hopes of a better future for families. The Empowering Parents program, a partnership with Matthew Whaley Elementary School, aims to help parents in need tackle the complexities of parenthood over the course of the next 12 months.

“Anytime we have a child successful in school, that will lead to a successful adult,” Literacy for Life Executive Director Joan Peterson said. “This will also bond families closer to each other.”

Announced in September, Empowering Parents launched Feb. 13 as a free initiative that offers classes and services related to transportation, job skill training, childcare services and more to parents in need. Many Literacy for Life clients, or learners, are new to the United States and in the process of learning English.

Francis Falcon, an instructor and program operations manager at Literacy for Life, estimates about 30 people have participated in the new program so far.

“I think it’s going even better than we expected it to go,” Falcon said. “It was a fantastic idea that came to fruition with hard work and coming together as a family.”

In addition to weekly classes, the first 12 weeks of Empowering Parents feature an aspect that supplies moms and dads with books to read to their children every night, something that can help them work on their English literacy while their children learn as well.

One learner, Monde Roojjaravee, said she is happy with the latest program so far. A Literacy for Life learner of six years, she praised the organization’s wide array of services as she balances her responsibilities working at a spa with those of parenthood.

“My daughter is looking forward to a new book every week,” Roojjaravee said. “It’s helped us a lot. I’m so happy and grateful.”

The program sees numerous community members working together. Impact 100 Greater Peninsula is helping fund the effort with a $50,000 grant, and College of William and Mary students are volunteering their support. Restaurants such as the Fat Tuna, South of the Border, La Tolteca and Anna’s Brick Oven donate food for weekly meetings at Matthew Whaley, where families can eat together without concern for cost, cooking and cleaning.

“It really is a huge community effort,” Falcon said. But she was most excited about the impact it’s having on individuals and their families. “I’m just thrilled to be a part of the program, and my favorite part of every class is just seeing how happy these parents are.”

Peterson said she and her team will closely monitor how their year working with Matthew Whaley pans out as they consider expanding the program to other schools. External evaluators will also assess the program’s outcome.

“We think it has huge potential from what we’re seeing already,” she said. “We’ve got the blueprint now. It’s a matter of following through and seeing it through a year.”

More information

Visit: literacyforlife.org

Call: 221-3325.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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