Side by Side is having a great impact on Laurel area schools!
In the 2013-14 school year, we expanded our primarily kindergarten focused series of parent workshops to include families of Grades 1 and 2 students. We have nearly doubled the number of families participating from last year and early data reviews of student assessments given them in reading show that Great Start kids make greater gains than those students whose families do not attend! For the coming school year, we will be adding a series of workshops for parents of county preschool (age 4) students and two of our schools will be additionally be hosts to our Great Start workshop series taught in Spanish.
As a former teacher and paraprofessional in the schools, it is a joy to see parents and teachers truly work together on behalf of their students. I have watched students who have struggled to read become more confident and successful when their parent redoubles the teacher's efforts by learning how to help more at home. Increased communication between home and school has a powerful effect on student effort, success and achievement. "I can't" becomes "I'll try", and "I'll try" becomes "I am" and "I can do this...and more"! It's a win-win for everyone. Stronger families DO build stronger schools-come join us!
As a former public school teacher and active volunteer with the faith based non profit, Side by Side, in Laurel, MD schools, I am thrilled to see parents and their children eagerly come to Great Start or Family Academy programs and go home from an evening with ways to work with their children at home, with newfound behavior management strategies, and with a growing respect for the efforts made upon their children's behalf. Class sizes are growing and there are multiple demands upon a teacher's ability to truly connect with a child's family, but at Side by Side, we seize upon opportunities to truly equip parents to be their child's first and best teacher. Children delight in free pizza for dinner and chances to participate in arts, science and literature based enriching and fun activities. Parents enjoy a "no cooking night", the opportunity to connect and share with other parents and and workshops led by school and community leaders. Teachers report greater participation in and support of school based instruction. When children, teachers, school administrators, and faith based community members work together, academic success is surely enhanced!
Side by Side is a local, faith-based organization in Laurel, MD working with the parents of students in our community's public elementary schools. It's mission focuses on providing resources for parents to better control their children's behavior and to help their young children with reading and arithmetic skills at home. A number of recent studies have found parental involvement and partnering with schools to be a key factor in the success of young children. With a large group of volunteers Side by Side has started the first Family Academy in our area and has just completed a series of workshops called Great Start specifically targeted to parents of kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students. The Great Start seminars were all taught by teachers in the schools and both the parents and the teachers had positive comments about the opportunity to interact with one another. Our programs are done with a meal for all attendees, workshops on a variety of topics for the parents, and special enrichment activities for the children. We have not charged a fee for any of our programs. We rely for the majority of our funding on individual contributions and support from area churches. Check out our website at sidebysidelaurel.org for more information.
Side by Side is an organization which brings together the community through programs which encourage parental involvement in their child's education. Both the Family Academy and Great Start programs help parents to help their children succeed in school. This in turn benefits the teachers and the staff of the schools the children attend. This effort is supported by the many volunteers from Laurel's faith based organizations and is truly making a difference in the lives of the children and parents in the Laurel schools.
We haven't found other organizations that do what we do. Many nonprofits offer parenting workshops and courses, but they don't tie these to the parents helping their children do well in school. Schools give occasional parent workshops, but they are generally one-off and don't build the parents' skills. Our Great Start program -- six consecutive workshops at each participating school in which kindergarten and pre-kindergarten parents learn about behavior, reading and math strategies and activities -- goes sufficiently in-depth to really make a difference. And the family meals beforehand, children's activities and Spanish translators build the parents' comfort and sense of belonging with the school
Side by Side is transforming Laurel area elementary schools by helping parents (and thus their children) with discipline and a love for reading and math. Through Side by Side's Great Start and Family Academy programs, parents are becoming engaged with teachers and principals. They are learning to have high expectations for their children and their schools. With a significant and growing number of families joining in the program, Side By Side is bringing lasting change to Laurel Area Schools. I am honored to play a part. One of the things that is so important to me is that the volunteers for Side By Side's programs come from neighborhood churches near the schools who provide love and a sense of community to the families who participate. These relationships will grow as the years unfold.