Fowler Head Start: Beneficiaries of the Pre-School Development Grant and a Place where Parents Can Dream Too!

Parents speak about their future dreams and plans, and showcase these aspirations in artistic portfolios

Parents speak about their future dreams and plans, and showcase these aspirations in artistic portfolios

My dream is to speak English.  I also want to finish school, and this photo shows how I plan to look and dress in the job I want to have.  My hopes are to one-day gain a job as secretary or in an administrative position.-Fowler Head Start Parent  (Translated into English)

Can you imagine a school where parents are encouraged to dream – something that we, as adults, seldom do now that we have grown up?  The Fowler Head Start Program inspires such action as it intentionally facilitates opportunities for parents to envision and express artistically a world where all of their hopes and dreams come true.

At Fowler Head Start, the principal and his staff have discovered that investing in the lives of a child’s parent/caregiver drastically improves the student’s educational possibilities.  As a part of the Fowler family, not only do parents feel more inclined to participate in activities hosted by the school, but they also contribute to the planning and organizing of the events.  This comes directly as a result of the school’s constant care for and engagement of the whole family.

In recognition to its commitment to its students and families, Fowler is a beneficiary of the U.S. Department of Education/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Pre-School Development Grant – a grant created to “support State and local efforts to build, develop, and expand High-Quality Preschool Programs so that more children from low- and moderate-income families enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and in life.” Fowler understands that in order for a child to have the chance to succeed in life, the school must also invest in the whole family’s needs.

During a visit to Phoenix, U.S. Department of Education Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Staff (CFBNP) were privileged to observe how the incorporation of family into the classroom space greatly contributes to a student’s learning.  Three, four, and five year-olds graced CFBNP staff with a student performance entitled, “Trip to Shanghai.”  Students danced, sang, and told tales of Ancient Eastern folklore. The artwork, planning, and preparation for the event were guided by both the teachers and the families of the students.

Welcome to Shanghai!  Decorations created by parents and teachers for the students’ performance

Welcome to Shanghai! Decorations created by parents and teachers for the students’ performance.

Fowler staff expressed how the relationship between teachers, the principal, and the families helped spark the academic interests and imagination of its students.  The creativity was evident when Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell was led on a tour and discovered beautiful artwork (including a fabulous portrait of herself crafted by a three-year-old!) created by students, including pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Fowler has gathered data to show that students who attend high quality early learning programs such as Fowler, excel in reading and math at a higher rate than their counterparts of the same age who do/did not attend Head Start.[1]

The staff and teachers at Fowler have earned the trust of the families they serve.  This trust stimulates a parental desire to become more involved in their children’s academic pursuits and helps children stay excited about learning.

[1] FESD #45 AIMS Reading: % Passing Comparison – Performance of Head Start vs. Non-Head Start Students

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Eddie Martin is Special Assistant in the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Wow! A 95.5% Graduation Rate!

CFBNP Director, Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Principal Cabrero, and Arizona Department of Education Staff celebrate the achievements of Franklin Police and Fire, including being named as U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School

CFBNP Director, Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Principal Cabrero, and Arizona Department of Education Staff celebrate the achievements of Franklin Police and Fire, including being named as U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School.

Wow, a 95.5% graduation rate at Franklin Police and Fire High School! Congratulations! The opportunities available to students demonstrate why Franklin Police and Fire in Phoenix, AZ was honored as a Blue Ribbon school by the U.S. Department of Education.  For the school, excellence in education is possible for all of its students through the care and collaboration of its community partners, families, and school members dedicated to ensuring their students’ success. In the present moment where community ties are stressed and distrust may continue to grow between citizens and those who have sworn to protect and serve them, Franklin Police and Fire is committed to changing such a paradigm and engaging in promising practices that continue to drive student achievement.

In four years as Principal at Franklin Police and Fire High School, Lorenzo Cabrera and his staff have accomplished amazing feats in this area. On a recent Together for Tomorrow site visit to the school, U.S. Department of Education Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Staff saw up close the benefits of how the school and its partners from the police force and fire department are working together to raise student achievement.

Students work with local fire and police departments where they learn skills such as CPR, First Aid, and team building. The students’ physical and emotional resilience are tested as they endure rigorous training and are confronted with difficult scenarios that firefighters and policemen often encounter daily. These scenarios are also reviewed in the classroom, where students have the opportunity to analyze and discuss how to maintain proper procedure while under duress. Moreover, students’ ethical insights and implicit biases are often challenged as they critically engage current controversies and events that have received national attention involving police forces across the U.S. Above all else, students are taught the value of integrity in their relationships with these partners and education within the school.  Because integrity is so important to the school, students are the required to recite its definition daily – “doing what is right even when no one is looking.”

In addition to its partnerships with the fire and police departments, Franklin Police and Fire High School promotes high student achievement though academic rigor, small class sizes, and heavy emphasis on college access. Students can receive college credit, earn various certifications, and even secure summer internships and employment, such as wildlife job opportunities offered through the Bureau of Land Management.

The partnership between Arizona State University’s (ASU) America Dream Academy (ADA) and Franklin Police and Fire helps families improve the educational outcomes of their youth. In ADA, the parents/caregivers of “at-risk” K-12 students partake in a nine-week program to “gain the knowledge and skills necessary to improve the educational development of their children, including methods to improve parent/child relationships; how to reduce dropout rates; and ensure high school graduation.” Such an initiative allows families to “take charge of their children’s education” as it helps to “build stronger families and communities.“

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Eddie Martin is Special Assistant in the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.