Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pre K Now

HIPPY Parent and Child, Houston ISD

There's a national movement underway to provide universal pre-Kindergarten, or at least full day PreK to elegible children. I fully endorse and support this movement. I also sometimes feel like the role of parents is getting a little lost in this effort. I've had the opportunity to review a lot of research regarding school readiness and it often seems like children are viewed as empty vessels that need to be filled as young as possible by professional educators. NO! Children enter school the very first day with experiences and skills thanks to their parents. Those of us in the field of parent involvement and education know that the research on the value and importance of getting parents involved early and keeping them involved is indisputable. It just makes sense that if parents work with their children at home (reading, playing, singing and conversing) and understand their role as first teacher...their children will do better in school. We KNOW that, but often don't know how to turn that into a reality with parents who are unsure about how to teach their child. I believe that what is BEST for young children is a high quality preschool with an excellent teacher who is well trained and compensated, AND with their parents' consistent and focused support at home. Schools and families are the "village" that raises today's children. If we don't invest in high quality, research based parent involvement for school readiness, we are missing out on an often untapped resource: parents.

For more information on the PreK now movement: http://www.preknow.org/

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Coordinator Spotlight - Yolanda

Yolanda Smith, Dallas HIPPY Coordinator

aka "HIPPY Cheerleader", encouraging everyone as they scaled the rock wall at our Kick Off!

Each of our coordinators brings special talents and gifts to our team. I'd like to share Yolanda's HIPPY story! When Yolanda and I first met it was her first week on the job as a Home Instructor in Fort Worth HIPPY. She had been recruited as a parent in the program, and quickly became interested in the position of home instructor. As a former teacher in New Jersey, Yolanda wasn't our typical parent nor home visitor in that she already had her degree, but she was at a crossroads in her life and as a member of the target community in Fort Worth she was elegible for the position. She quickly took to the HIPPY philosophy and by the next year she accepted the position of HIPPY coordinator when it came open! Over the next few years Yolanda grew and expanded the Fort Worth HIPPY program, doubling it in size. Again, she was ready for a change but didn't want to leave HIPPY. When she heard of an opening in Dallas HIPPY she seized the opportunity and was accepted for the position. Once she settled in Yolanda decided to use her AmeriCorps education award she earned while a home instructor and enrolled in college again to work on her MSW degree. With her positive attitude, motivation and sense of humor she has served as an inspiration to parents, home visitors and other coordinators in Dallas, Fort Worth and beyond! She's always ready to help out with trainings and presentations, she is insightful and is one of our strongest HIPPY Cheerleaders!

In her own words, when asked what HIPPY has meant to her, "HIPPY is the most fulfilling job I have ever had. Over the years with HIPPY I have had the pleasure of meeting such a wide variety of magnificent people such as Hilary Clinton and Dr. Ruth to name a few. I have also had the pleasure of developing wonderful relationships with my colleagues and the families we serve. HIPPY has been and continues to be a blessing to my family and me."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

College Forward

College Forward facilitating a team building activity during the Kick Off

One of our newest collaborations has been with a program in Austin called "College Forward". They offer college information and preparation to economically disadvantaged Texans. One of our funding partners, Texas Pioneer Foundation, put us in contact with them which has resulted in some great opportunities. Two of their VISTA members came out to our Kick Off and presented timely information to our HIPPY Home Instructors, on how to best use their AmeriCorps Education Award. We even went through the FAFSA together just in time for them to complete them in January when their tax information arrives. Our goal is to increase the number of home instructors who immediately put their education award to use. Even though they have 7 years to use the award, we know that time slips by quickly and there's never a perfect time to make the life changing decision to enroll in college as an adult!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Parents Volunteer

Our primary focus is to teach parents of preschoolers (age 3, 4, 5) how to get their children ready for school. Home Visitors first establish a relationship with parents, and train them to work with their children. Once parents feel comfortable with teaching techniques and their own skills they are challenged to give back to the community by volunteering. Home visitors are the link between the community and the school. They bring volunteer opportunities from the school to parents and support volunteering and parent involvement in the schools. Principals like Kay Reynolds at Richardson ISD Dobie Elementary have expressed the wide-reaching effects HIPPY has on volunteerism in their school, “My Pre-K teachers comb through their class roster at the beginning of the year looking for HIPPY kids and their parents! They know that these parents are motivated, anxious to help their child and willing to volunteer. HIPPY helps parents understand they need to be involved and to look for new ways to be involved.” We challenge parents to volunteer 20 hours per year through bringing opportunities into the home visit, hosting volunteer events at the school, and presenting volunteer opportunities during the monthly parent meetings at the school. This year the Texas HIPPY Center has developed a 15 hour curriculum for program coordinators to provide home visitors with training on how to develop leadership and volunteerism among parents. This curriculum is available online at http://www.hippymis.org/ (click on backoffice). Once activated, parents have engaged in the following volunteer activities: reading to children in the classroom, supervising field trips, overseeing the lunch room, making classroom supplies for teachers, establishing a community garden, participating in PTA, and special projects such as painting a mural at a school cafeteria. As a result of our Home Visitors efforts (HIPPYCorps Members) 80.6% of HIPPY parents increased their level of parent involvement with their children’s school. At the beginning of the year 47% of parents had volunteered or otherwise supported their child’s school. By the end of the year, 65% were involved monthly or more often. Thanks to the continuous support and motivation from the HIPPYCorps Home Visitors 1,590 HIPPY parents volunteered a total of 25,110 volunteer hours!