Family needs part of Learning Grant, third in a series

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 30, 2001

MONTICELLO — More than 1,200 families here will benefit fromthe second objective of the 21st Century Learning Grant as it movesto expand and enhance the school district’s Families First ResourceCenter.

According to Superintendent John Bull, the years before a childreaches the public school system at age five are possibly the mostimportant in determining their future success as a student.

“In the past few years scientists have found that an adult’spotential vocabulary is determined largely by the words filteredthrough the brain before age three, and the neurologicalfoundations for math and logic are set before age four,” Bull said.”Just as importantly, roots of violent behavior in children andadults has been traced to experiences they had during the firstthree years of their life.”

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The FFRC, located in a house near the high school campus, is thedistrict’s best chance to provide children from birth to age four astrong start on their education, Bull said, by teaching parentswhat their children need to know prior to kindergarten and how bestto teach it, among other concerns. Resource centers will also belocated at New Hebron and Topeka Attendance Centers.

The district plans to contact the parents or family of the childat or before birth to establish a positive relationship and assistthem with any parenting questions they may have, Bull said. Printedmaterial, videos and other sources of information will also be madeavailable.

“”We don’t tell parents what do do, we just give them support,”said Helen Wall, the center’s school-home liaison. “I don’t know ofany parent who has ever said they don’t want to be a good one. Somejust don’t know how to be a good one.”

The superintendent said all offices of the Center have trainedParent Educators to provide parenting classes and offer advice toparents and families. Child care is provided during the classes andoften supervised by a volunteer.

“In addition to parent educators, there is also a registerednurse available to all the schools and to the families,” Wallsaid.

The nurse travels where needed throughout the district toaccomplish her missions, Wall said.

A referral service is also available to assist parents andfamilies with life’s problems and decisions, such as nutrition andhealth information, Bull said.

In several cases, he said, FFRC’s services will attack the issueof parenthood on two fronts. Not only will they help prepare thechild for future studies, but they will also allow the parent tocontinue their education as well.

“At the high school there are several students who are teenageparents,” Bull said. “These students and their children are atarget group for the parent-family center activities. Workingcooperatively with partners, school counselors and the schoolnurse, we will tailor to the needs of teenage parents.”

The young parents will also be encouraged to stay in school andprepare themselves for jobs and careers, Bull said.

“Grandparents, who very often provide care to thesegrandchildren, will also be included in the services of theCenter,” he said.

Teenage pregnancy is not just a local concern. Mississippi rankslast in the nation in teen births with 52 births per thousandoccurring to mothers between the ages of 15 and 17.

Editor’s Note: Wednesday’s article will examine the last twoobjectives the grant targets, establishing extended library andmedia services at school sites and providing limited after schoolopportunities and services to students in grades 9-12.