United Way goal at halfway mark
‘Parents as teachers’ train this week
By Jennifer Shrader
As its $1.2 million fundraising campaign rounded the half way mark, the United Way of West Georgia took the first steps to start up “BELL: Building Early Learners for Life,” a parents-as-teachers program that will start training parents to ready their pre-school age for school.
The trainers will be out in the community later this month.
“Two of us are grandmothers, so we’ve sort of ‘been there, done that,’ and we know how important it is,” said Wanda Brown, one of four full-time parent educators recently hired by BELL to go into parents’ homes and work with families.
Brown and her fellow local educators, Paige Dixon, Maria Hull and Fran Ford, are among the 40 people on hand this week to receive certification from the “Parents as Teachers” program. Even noneducators who want to implement the program cirriculum must go through training and certification to be able to use it, said Shirley Richards, a trainer from the program’s national institute.
“This (training) was a bigger deal than we realized,” said Alfreda Hyman, Troup BELL coordinator.
The “Parents as Teachers” program, based in St. Louis, is used in all states and eight foreign countries.
Troup County, which received a state grant to start up the program last year, wound up being a regional training site this week with educators and professionals from Georgia and the Southeast coming to LaGrange for certification.
The four educators have about 30 years of experience in their previous fields: juvenile justice, court-appointed special advocates, Twin Cedars and Troup County schools. Also taking part in the training and wanting to implement the program are Troup County pre-kindergarten; First Steps at West Georgia Medical Center; and Success by Six, a United Way of West Georgia-sponsored early learning program.
The training, which began Monday and ended today, focused on everything from what to expect when entering parents’ homes to physiological studies of the brain. Richards said the program uses studies that show what parts of a child’s brain develop at what times - and what activities can be used to spur that development.
“It’s never too late to start working with your child, but there may be times when certain skills are learned easier,” said Richards, who has been a trainer for the program for 17 years.
Not only do the parent educators show parents activities that can be done with the children, children in the program constantly are screened for developmental delays. The problems then are addressed before the child gets to school and falls behind.
“The first three years of a child’s life can set the tone for the rest of their life,” Richards said.
United Way of West Georgia President Patty Youngblood said the annual fundraising campaign is moving at as good as last year’s pace and the first-time event, Dine United, held before Christmas, brought in about $1,000 in first-time donations and likely will be repeated next year. The campaign has raised about $654,00, 53 percent of its goal.
Donations this year are especially important, with a greater need for social services: food, utility and rent assistance, and financial planning for the tough times.
“It is really starting to get busy now after the first of the year,” said Beth McMillan, director of the local Consumer Credit Counseling office, a United Way agency. “People are calling for evaluation appointments to see if they can get help from a credit counselor or if they really need to file bankrupcy. Bankruptcies are at an all-time high, and foreclosures are still terrible. Mortgage lenders are trying to be more helpful to clients in trouble, but people are drowning in their debt and because the economy is so bad and no one’s jobs are secure, everyone is scared.”
Jennifer Shrader may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (706) 884-7311, Ext. 236.