Educating parents and children, A Stepping Stone Foundation’s approach to multigenerational learning

Phoenix, AZ | Submitted by Cynthia Gattorna

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The most important driver of a student’s success isn’t the money spent on supplies, the variety of extracurricular activities or even the class size. In fact, the mother’s level of education is the factor most likely to determine a student’s success.

That’s why for nearly three decades, A Stepping Stone Foundation (part of READ ON Phoenix) has been working to educate both children and their parents. With a particular focus on literacy, the Foundation has created LEAF (Literacy Elevates Arizona Families), a traditional four-point program that includes quality preschool, home visits, and intergenerational learning activities.

Currently available to families living in the Alhambra and Isaac Elementary School Districts, LEAF includes robust requirements for participation. Geared toward families that don’t have literacy in the home, LEAF students are placed in a high-quality preschool classroom. During the school year, their parents are required to volunteer at the school every week, participate in parenting classes and attend twice-weekly English language classes. Those who are eligible can even earn their GED as part of the program.

While children are readying themselves to learn in a kindergarten classroom, caregivers are expanding their own horizons and learning how to support their child’s educational journey. And thanks to the long-running success of the program, word of mouth has ensured that recruiting families to participate is no challenge. The efforts are closely aligned to the Arizona Education Progress Meter and its goal to increase the number of students in quality early learning settings, to 45 from 24 percent by the year 2030.

And because learning continues long after preschool ends, A Stepping Stone Foundation also offers postsecondary scholarships and internships for former preschool participants.

Over the years, the Foundation has served more than 1,700 Arizona families. And they know it’s having a big impact. More than 80 percent of their youth meet commonly used preschool goals and among parents, 80 percent significantly improve their English language skills. As kindergarteners, their students perform better on both social and academic measures. Here’s what the program has meant in their own words:

  • “I want to say thank you for this program for our children, parents, and family….We feel blessed to participate in the (Stepping Stone) program as a family. We have been growing as parents, teachers, and educators of our children. This is something very unique and valuable… My son has been a good example for his sister, cousins, and friends to follow. His teachers are forming and educating him to be a good citizen through books, music, games, teamwork, and their dynamic way of teaching is reinforced with professional ethics.” – Parent
  • “Our family had no goals; we had no future and were living day by day without a plan… In Parent Time I learned that I could do anything I put my mind to.  I also learned to set reasonable goals for my family and myself.  I started GED classes with a third grade level in 1999 and in May of 2003 I received an Associate in Applied Science in Child Care Administration, and a CDA (Child Development Associate) and I am still working towards my Bachelors.  My self-esteem has become a part of who I am.  I take reasonable challenges and always strive to do the best for my children’s education.”  – Parent
  • “We are very proud of our children and all they have accomplished this year.  They have learned many practical skills such as recognizing colors, shapes and some numbers, cutting with scissors, holding a crayon or pencil, taking turns, sharing, and following directions… Equally important, they are developing a positive attitude about school and an enthusiasm for learning.  We thank you for investing in our children’s futures and we assure you that you have made a difference for children and for their families.”  – Teacher

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