Education

Parent outreach program offers valuable lessons

It’s back to school for students in Escambia County School District, but participants in a Parent Outreach Program got a head start this summer in classes to help them help their children become more proficient and reach educational milestones.

Wednesday, Aug. 9 is the next scheduled date for the Studer Community Institute’s Parent Outreach Program at Moreno Court.

For one hour each week, SCI staff offers parents tips, training and strategies in early learning initiatives for their young children under 4 years old.

On Thursdays, another set of parents from Attucks Court meet at the Fricker Resource Center for similar classes to enhance brain development in babies and toddlers and improve educational outcomes for the older kids in the families.

Moreno Court was the first of several complexes under the Pensacola Area Housing Commission’s umbrella that SCI offered parenting sessions.

Next on the list are Gonzalez and Morris courts, with the aim of reaching many parents in areas identified as “pockets of poverty.”

The aim is to spread the program throughout the Area Housing campuses, reaching parents with helpful ways to engage their children and build babies’ brains, and in the long run, build lives and a better community.

Tammy Barge joined the Parent Outreach Program at Moreno Court from the start in June and has yet to miss a session.

“I come because it gives me more positive skills, gaining knowledge about how to be a better parent for my children,” said Barge, 32, a mother with four children and two under 4 years old. “I think you all are doing an excellent job. The classes keep my attention and give very good information.”

The one hour, once-a-week, eight-session program uses educational information from the University of Chicago Thirty Million Word Initiative and LENA Start, emphasizing the key component of the three T’s: Tune in, Talk to and Take turns.

Most parents have the ability to talk, interact and engage with their children in daily encounters and activities. This simple but crucial task is at the heart of Thirty Million Words strategies. We are using and building on those important principles in our parent programs in Pensacola.

Pam Evans, a grandmother of a two-year-old in Moreno Court, shared with the class how she had begun using the talking tips with her grandchild and the positive results of the interaction.

“Since I started attending these meetings, I’ve been talking so much more with my grandson,” said Evans, 61. “It must be working, because he is so active now and we can’t stop him from talking. I like the lessons on the 3T’s. I want to see my grandson doing good in school.”

Wynter Davis, in her new role as assistant program coordinator, has used training and education in early education at the University of West Florida to implement creative and useful lesson plans and activities for parents and children.

During the orientation session at Attucks Court, a young mother admitted that she didn’t know how to effectively talk to her baby.

Davis personally delivered the mother an Impact 100 Brain Bag and went over the tips and strategies with the mother to ensure she knew the importance of the literacy kit.

The literacy tool kit is given to every birth mother in Pensacola’s three hospitals through an Impact 100 grant awarded to the Studer Community Institute to enhance brain development in babies and toddlers.

Kiera Smith-Crosby received an Impact Brain Bag at Sacred Heart Hospital after giving birth to a baby girl in May. She regularly attends the Moreno Court program sessions and uses the materials in the Brain Bags at home with her newborn and three other children.

Kiera Smith-Crosby and her daughter, Joh’Nysia. Credit: Reggie Dogan.

Smith-Crosby said she regularly reads the “P is for Pelican: The ABCs of Pensacola” to her children. She also uses the SCI “Baby Steps” book for tips and to track her baby’s developmental milestones.

“I didn’t know a lot of stuff about how much a child takes in as an infant,” said Kiera Smith-Crosby, 24. a mother of four with two children under 4 years old in Moreno Court “Having the Brain Bag has helped me learn better ways to talk to my baby.

Smith-Crosby said the Parent Outreach Program has taught a lot of new things about babies and brain development.

“This gives me new ideas and ways to interact with my children,” Smith-Crosby said. “This program teaches us how to interact with our children and what you tell your children they memorize it.”