When the directors of Reach Potential Movement (RPM) learned of The Parent Project – a training program to empower parents raising difficult or out-of-control children – they knew it would be a perfect fit for their Sunnyvale nonprofit agency, which works with low-income families throughout Silicon Valley.
“The court will often refer parents of kids who are in the juvenile justice system to this program because there is so much results-based evidence that it makes an impact,” said Christy Tonge, who co-founded RPM with Rob Schulze five years ago. “It shows some real turnaround in the youth and in the parent-youth relationship.”
But there was a problem – The Parent Project was only taught in English, and the families RPM serves primarily speak Spanish. RPM remedied that by having its bilingual director of leadership development, Aimee Lopez, become a certified instructor.
RPM first offered The Parent Project last spring. The program proved so successful that Lopez is leading it again this fall. The three-hour sessions run Monday nights for eight weeks at the Gateway Neighborhood Center, where RPM is based.
“We tell the parents, ‘Give us 24 hours of your time and we will guarantee a change in your family,’” Lopez said. “It’s not just parenting tools, but an opportunity to give them hope.”
In the first session, the 15 parents enrolled in the current program learned how important it is to show their children they love them and ways to express it. Other sessions include subjects like active supervision (paying attention to such things as who their children are friends with, what they watch on TV and how to monitor Facebook), drug use and gangs.
Lopez said feedback from participants, who receive a certificate upon completing the program, has been extremely positive.
“In the last session, we had parents in tears saying, ‘Thank you, thank you,’” she said. “It’s exciting to hear that they’re seeing changes in their homes already.”
RPM changes homes in a different way through another popular program. The Bookshelf in Every Home Project not only provides a useful piece of furniture for Mountain View and Sunnyvale families with kindergartners, but also includes reading material. Aided by scores of volunteers, RPM built more than 500 bookshelves this year, according to Tonge, and doled out a bevy of books.
For youngsters struggling to grasp the words in those books, RPM offers a Reading Readiness Program aimed at kindergartners and first-graders falling behind in class. Referred by teachers, the students are tutored by RPM volunteers after school four days a week.
“It’s gratifying and rewarding to see these kids make progress when they get individual help,” said Tonge, who added that more tutors are needed to accommodate students on the waiting list.
When these children and their classmates get a little older, they can participate in RPM’s Dream4College program. It involves taking fourth- and fifth-graders and their parents on a field trip to Stanford University.
“Many of them aren’t thinking about college,” said Lopez, referring to the students and their parents, many of whom did not finish high school. “We try to plant that seed in their heads.”
To reinforce that, Dream4College includes a parent education workshop and classroom-based college and career activities.
For more information, visit reachpotential.org.