It is well documented that children’s educational and social outcomes improve when their parents are engaged in their academic experience. Parent involvement is even more critical for very low-income children who often have to overcome additional obstacles including under-resourced schools and stressful environments. Studies show that low-income parents want to be involved in their children’s education, but language, transportation, cultural, and employment barriers make it very challenging.
One of the Agency’s core programs, Project Grow is an afterschool and out-of-school program which fosters a stable and educational environment for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. At Adopt-A-Family, Project Grow provides an Academic Advisor to eliminate some of these barriers by acting as a liaison between parents and the school. The program is customized to meet the unique challenges of 60 formerly homeless and low-income students from Adopt-A-Family housing programs and the surrounding community. Project Grow teachers work with the children’s parent to ensure parental involvement and encourage parent/children engagement. The mission of Project Grow is to provide a safe, stable environment for low-income, formerly homeless children in which to learn.
Click the link below to read an article from How Housing Matters to learn more about the structural barriers preventing low-income parents from engaging in their children’s education, and the ways in which the community can come together to accommodate parents who have a desire to support their children in the classroom.
Sandy first came to Project Grow scared and heartbroken. Her father had tragically passed away and with him, the sense of stability of their home and livelihood. Her mother worked incredibly hard to support her family and Sandy was grateful for that, and even though her mother did everything she could possibly do, they still had a very low income and struggled to get by.
English was Sandy’s second language and her mother spoke very limited English. Sandy did the best she could, but it made it extremely difficult for her to understand her homework, make friends and feel any sense of self-confidence. In addition to educational challenges, Sandy suffered from significant dental issues, but due to her family’s lack of insurance coverage, those issues went untreated. She was a very picky eater but loved candy, which exacerbated her dental problems. Sandy missed school often as a result of feeling ill.
“Sandy did the best she could, but it made it extremely difficult for her to understand her homework make friends and feel any sense of self-confidence”
Sandy started attending Adopt-A-Family’s Project Grow and immediately began receiving academic services, including literacy tutoring from Literacy AmeriCorps members and one-on-one tutoring in all subject areas with Grow’s school District of Palm Beach County’s tutor. Sandy also started seeing Adopt-A-Family’s on-site counselor to process the loss of her father. She expressed that she was afraid to see a dentist so Project Grow staff talked to Sandy about the importance of proper hygiene and regular dental visits for her overall health. After participating in the “Grow it, Try It, Like It” nutrition classes at Project Grow, she learned that she could substitute fruit for candy. Adopt-A-Family was able to connect Sandy’s mother to dental and health services for her family and Sandy has since received the dental treatment she needed.
Sandy had a hard time easing into the program at first; she would cry almost every day, struggled with her reading and was
extremely shy and hesitant to participate in class. The amazing teachers, tutors and staff refused to give up on her though, and diligently worked alongside her and regularly met with Sandy’s mother to better support her academic and personal growth.
Sandy is now in 1st grade and has become a bright, outgoing young girl. She is absent from school much less often and has even become a leader in her Project Grow classroom. Her reading skills have improved as a result of the tutoring services she has received, her dental and overall health has improved significantly and she has gained immense self-confidence. Sandy enjoys participating in science experiments in her Project Grow classroom and dreams of one day becoming a police officer.
Do you want to be a part of Sandy’s story and other’s like her? Consider donating today and your gift will go directly to Project Grow and the impact the program has on children’s lives every single day.
When Erlande, a Project Grow alum, speaks about her future, her eyes brighten with enthusiasm.
“I know I want to work with neo-natal infants because it’s the most meaningful way I could give back to others,” she shared. “I don’t want to sound too cliché, but when you grow up around nothing but crisis and hurt—it only makes sense to find something that can impact others in a powerful way.”
Now a senior in High School, Erlande was visiting Adopt-A-Family as she preparing for her adventure into college. While here, she shared the amazing life accomplishments she experienced since her time in Project Grow.
Erlande came to AAF as a young child, uncertain and worried, reaming closed off to staff and the other kids in the program. That all changed though, with the support from teachers, newly made friends in the program and the on-site mental health counselor. “When Erlande first started the program, she was really shy and spoke in such a quiet tone,” shared Daron Morse, Project Grow’s Director of Educational Programs. “Over the years, her confidence began to build more and her voice grew along with it.”
After Project Grow, Erlande became focused on improving her mental health by participating in counseling and becoming involved in the community—healthy coping strategies that Erlande credits with eliminating frustration and anger management challenges she struggled with throughout childhood.
While sharing her excitement to AAF staff during her visit, she couldn’t help but express her gratitude for Project Grow, a program that helped shape her childhood and formative years for the better.
“Project Grow was my childhood,” shared Erlande with a smile. “Everything I remember about my youth revolved around this program—from the singing and activities, to learning how to cope with challenges at home, Project Grow meant everything to me at a very difficult time in my life. I knew I could always come here no matter the crises I frequently faced in my home environment. The program taught me how to treat people with respect and humility; qualities that helped me excel in the healthcare career I began working toward early in my high school years. I remember volunteering with the nursing home across from Adopt-A-Family and applying everything I learned during my Project Grow years on a daily basis. To work in the healthcare field, you need to have a lot of compassion and patience; both are qualities I don’t think I could have refined without my time in Grow.”
Once she graduated out of Project Grow, Erlande became focused on improving her mental health by participating in counseling and becoming involved in the community—healthy coping strategies that
Erlande credits with eliminating frustration and anger management challenges she struggled with throughout childhood.
“I knew I could always come here (Project Grow) no matter the crises I frequently faced in my home environment. The program taught me how to treat people with respect and humility; qualities that helped me excel in the healthcare career I began working toward early in my high school years.”
As a busy high school senior, community volunteer, and Medicana employee, Erlande also successfully earned her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), EKG tech, and Medical Assistant licenses through a rigorous program offered through her high school. Erlande’s resilience, academic and professional success, and commitment to community volunteerism caught the eyes of two local patrons of Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, who became significant mentors in her life. Soon afterward, Erlande was honored with a tuition-scholarship from Bethesda-by-the-Sea in addition to significant scholarship support from Florida State University and other private scholarship providers! She planned to pursue a degree in nursing with hopes of someday working in a neo-natal intensive care unit.
Even after sharing her many successes, Erlande has one focus on her mind—how she can impact her hometown.
“Project Grow and Lake Worth had a GIGANTIC impact on my childhood,” said Erlande in closing. “Lake Worth is where I was born and raised, however, you always want to become someone better than you grew up around. Even though I’ve gone through things that were so difficult and hurtful, I see myself back here in ten years giving back to this community (hopefully as a neo-natal intensive care nurse).”
We congratulate Erlande and wish her well on her incredible journey forward!
The Strength of a Mother
Kyla and her one-year old daughter Savannah, came to Adopt-A-Family scared and fearful of the world around them, holding on to each other tightly because they were afraid of the unknown. Kyla had not had it easy, struggling for a long time with PTSD and extreme anxiety. She wanted nothing more than to provide a good and happy life for her daughter but needed a confidence boost and helping hand to do so. Kyla and her daughter moved into SAFE in October 2012 and slowly began to open up and work towards gaining the courage and boldness to achieve her goals.
After spending time working and building her self-esteem with her Family Advocate at AAF, Kyla put her daughter in daycare so that she could explore employment and school opportunities. With the help from AAF staff, Kyla’s confidence grew stronger and stronger while Savannah learned to no longer fear the world, but to explore it and learn everything she could. In 2014, while also working part-time and caring for her daughter, Kyla started to attend PBSC to go for her Associates in Human Services and was so successful there that she even made the Dean’s List two years in a row.
“Kyla’s confidence grew stronger and stronger Savannah learned to no longer fear the world, but to explore it and learn everything she could.”
With her success earning her Associates Degree, Kyla is currently working towards earning her Bachelor’s degree. By mid-2016 Kyla was married and expecting her second daughter Arabella and with help of her spouse and his family they were able to move into their own home in OK in September 2017 while being self-sufficient and providing a fulfilling and safe life for their daughters.
If you want to help other mothers like Kyla, you can donate below. Let’s make it a special Mothers Day to all the moms in our community!
Living affordably makes a true difference for our families — Meet Nancy E., an NSP2 Success Story.
We took the opportunity to catch up with Nancy and learn more about how having an affordable place to live has helped unlock her entrepreneurial spirit.
I’ve been in the NSP2 program for more than two years now. I had worked in the Lake Worth community for nearly a decade and knew about Adopt-A-Family’s work from my many years with the local CDC. When my life took an unfortunate turn, Adopt-A-Family was the first place I turned. I qualified for the NSP2 program and my life has transformed ever since.
That’s amazing. Tell us about your efforts to start your very own, socially conscious business.
I am starting my own business called “Creative Jeans.” Adopt-A-Family is the only reason I can pursue my entrepreneurial dreams. With an affordable place to call home, I can work full-time and dedicate time to my true passion. Truthfully an affordable place to live is the #1 blessing in my life. Ms. Glenda, my case manager, is #2.
Tell us a little more about what you hope to accomplish with Creative Jeans.
A bit about my business – I write directly on jeans – the process is called “Apparel with a Message.” The message deals with different problems we may face; particularly our youth. This includes bullying in schools, DWI, drug recovery (any recovery) – all of this must tie back to a positive message I share directly on the jeans. I have some of the work at home where I’ve completed some projects. I’ve reached out to schools, including school counselors, to share this message directly with children that have behavioral problems. My end goal is to prevent children from going out on the streets and getting in trouble. They must avoid the many at-risk behaviors that are prevalent in our community. Another purpose of the business is truly to better myself.
Tying it all together…
Adopt-A-Family helped me at a time in my life when I was on a downfall. Their support is special. Life is still a struggle from time to time, but I am certainly in a better place than I have been. In the end, I always aim to live up to my word. When I say something, or set a goal… I do my best. To Ms. Glenda, I can’t thank you enough for being my case worker. Adopt-A-Family is truly allowing me the opportunity to live up to my dreams.
All Adopt-A-Family success stories relate to the core message of our mission statement: stability and self-sufficiency for the families we proudly serve. If you don’t think our stories connect to mission, let us know!
View samples of Nancy’s work below.