Education strengthens families |

Education strengthens families

Nonprofit SpotlightKay VasilakisGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Even Start works with economically disadvantaged parents and their children to break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy. Its comprehensive family literacy services include early childhood education, home visitation, adult education, parenting classes, and intergenerational literacy activities. The program uses education as a means of strengthening families and promoting self-sufficiency. In 1996, the local Colorado preschool program coordinator approached Colorado Mountain College about working together to provide more comprehensive services for local families. A number of low income parents had no high school diplomas and were unable to speak English, making it difficult for them to help their children reach their learning potentials. In discussions with CMC and other community organizations, a decision was made to pursue an Even Start grant, which serves families in unique ways. As a result, CMC’s Even Start Family Literacy Program was begun. It is now in its 10th year of serving local families. Traditionally, program participants are from low-income families in which one parent is able to commit to all of the components of the Even Start Family Literacy program with their child or children up to age 7. The majority of the children in these families are considered “at risk” as defined by the Colorado PreSchool Program eligibility factors; i.e., parent(s) has less than a high school diploma, child qualifies for free or reduced lunch, language barriers exist, long work commutes are a factor, and/or more than one family may be living in a home. The educational needs of the majority of adults in the families served have been to improve English-speaking skills and/or earn a GED as a means of gaining independence and self-sufficiency. For most of the children, intensive early childhood education, including exposure to the English language, is required in order to get them at an “even start” with their peers before beginning their formal education in the public schools. During 2004-05, Even Start programs served 70 families.Even Start has compiled some impressive statistics for families in its programs, including: 85 percent of parents met their adult education goals; 77 percent of parents enrolled in Even Start programming and registered for Adult Basic Education, progressed through one level; 68 percent of parents enrolled in Even Start programming and registered for English as a Second Language classes, progressed through one level; 77 percent of parents enrolled in Even Start programming and registered for GED classes, passed the GED exam; 80 percent of new parents improved the use of literacy materials with their children; 91 percent of Even Start preschool-aged children were functioning at age-appropriate levels of development; 91 percent of Even Start children in the primary grades with 90 percent attendance were reading at grade level; 85 percent of primary grade children attended school 90 percent of the time.CMC Even Start Family Literacy in Glenwood Springs currently has openings for parents who are interested in attending CMC to learn English or work toward a GED and have a child (or children) age(s) 1-2 to enroll in the early childhood program. The program is free for qualifying families. For more information, call 384-5446.Kay Vasilakis’ “Nonprofit Spotlight” column runs every other Wednesday. She is the media coordinator for the Garfield County Human Services Commission. To contact her, please call 384-9118 or e-mail kvasilakis@postindependent. com.

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