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FACE Program Empowers Parents

PUYALLUP, Wash. - "I wanted to take charge of my life," proclaimed 34-year
old Mianne Flores. Flores, along with 13 other adults, is on a path
designed to prepare them for a positive future by providing exciting
educational opportunities for themselves and their children. The group is
part of the Chief Leschi School Family and Child Education (FACE) Program
in Washington state.

Four days a week Flores and her peers attend class while their children are
nearby at the on-site preschool. She said she began the program with her
first child because she wanted to feel more connected to the community and
felt it was important for her son to be around other kids in an educational
setting.

"I wanted and needed more resources to be a better parent. I was smart but
didn't have self-esteem. I had graduated from high school and had even
taken some college classes but still needed higher level reading skills and
education. I've learned how to do my taxes and think on my own," Flores
said.

FACE adult educator Kathryn Larvie has worked in Indian education since
1976. She knows the struggles many Native parents go through and is
determined to help women and men overcome their challenges by providing a
stimulating and supportive educational experience. "Everyone has an
individualized program. Some parents work on getting their GED, take
college prep classes or learn computer programs such as Excel, Publisher or
PowerPoint." What's often truly beneficial are the caring relationships
that develop between the adults when they share common parenting concerns.
Larvie is there to guide them through the ups and downs of parenting while
providing valuable tools for child development.

Parents spend individual time with their children mid-morning as they take
part in pre-school activities planned by their kids. They may find
themselves doing an art project, at the science table, reading, or having a
role in a puppet show. Preschool teacher Michelle Gates said both children
and adults benefit. "It's real quality time for the kids and parents. Many
children have other siblings and it's good for the kids to have the
individual attention with their parents."

Catherine Campbell has three children, two of whom are in the FACE program.
At 34, she returned to the program a year ago because she wanted more
social interaction and knew it was important for her kids to learn about
their culture. "I love coming to school. I've found ways to help my
children learn and be involved with their learning."

Another component of the FACE program is home-based education. Instructor
Jessica Tomkins makes personal weekly visits to 18 families with children
from birth to 3 years old. During these one-hour sessions she provides
activities for both parents and children. Tomkins said it's important for
parents to understand they are the first and most important teacher for
their children. "I show parents how to recognize their child's learning
abilities so they can give them opportunities to grow."

FACE Director Brenda Johnson said the program provides support in a variety
of ways. "We help families make change. Whatever goals parents have
personally they can work on here and we provide a wonderful preschool for
their kids. Our curriculum, educators and support services are all designed
to prepare adults and kids for an optimistic future."

For details on the FACE program e-mail Brenda Johnson at
brenda@leschi.bia.edu or call (253) 445-6000, ext. 3183.