The classroom at Parent U fills up every Tuesday morning with parents eager to acquire skills for professional and personal use. The course is one of many services provided by Sound to Harbor Early Learning Programs for parents of current or former students. From October through April, the 30-hour training culminates with a celebration where participants earn their STARS certification. This fulfills a state requirement for being a preschool teacher assistant or a program substitute. It’s also useful information for any parent.

The weekly classes cover a variety of topics, from nutrition to brain development to health and safety and more. Modules are taught by various staff members.

Sound to Harbor Parent U Pauline and Linda
With the help of Linda Allen, Pauline Springer prepares to re-enter the workforce with tools from Sound to Harbor. Photo credit: Mary Ellen Psaltis

Melanie Scrivner, center manager at the SPSCC Child & Family Education Center, recently gave an interactive presentation about child management through Positive Behavior Interventions and Support or PBIS. The multi-tiered approach improves the emotional, social, and academic outcomes for students of all types. Parents learn that giving descriptive feedback rather than an evaluative statement can go a long way in reinforcing a desired behavior. For example, “It was helpful you brought your plate to the sink” is more powerful than the often-used “good job.” Topics are covered through questions, homework, and discussion. Encouragement and strategies are exchanged. Linda Allen, family services parent coordinator, and Caitlyn Ishikawa, family community coordinator, are on hand to help parents with whatever is necessary.

STARS program completion through Parent U is a jumping-off point for the next career step. Last year, 7 of the 13 participants found employment with Sound to Harbor. Paulina Springer, a military spouse, is currently enrolled. She has been out of the traditional work force for 10 years, and the class is providing motivation for her to complete her resume and gather tools for going back to work. Paulina is already a college graduate, but greatly appreciates the many avenues of resources that Sound to Harbor offers in her movement forward.

Sound to Harbor Parent U
Isabel Livingston brings her younger son Alex to Parent U where she will develop many skills to help her parent him and her older child, who attends school while she takes classes.
Photo credit: Mary Ellen Psaltis

Attendees of Parent U have (or had) students in the Head Start and ECEAP (Early Childhood Education Assistance Programs), which provides preschool for children of families with financial needs. The early learning centers offer an impressive level of services, not only for the students, but for the families as well. People are apprised of the many and varied social services in the area. Then they receive assistance to make connections for help with housing, medical needs, nutrition support, legal advocacy, and much more.

Four times through the year, families receive personal home visits or on-site visits. These visits are times to set and review goals for the whole family and to get connected to necessary resources in the community. “It’s truly a parent program,” explains Linda. With over 800 students, there are many families involved. She believes that a foundation of family support increases the long-term success of the children.

The preschool and childcare options have been structured to fill the varied needs of parents. Three-and-a-half-hour half-day programs are available mornings and afternoons. The school-day option for some Head Start students is a daily program for six-and-a-half hours. There is also an ECEAP wrap-around program with preschool and daycare before or after school. Interviews with incoming families determine the best option for them.

Sound to Harbor Parent U Day Board
This board helps children to talk about the day and learn sequencing, an early literacy skill. Photo credit: Mary Ellen Psaltis

Managing a family is a life-long challenge. Financial constraints make lives even more stressful and difficult. Sound to Harbor’s learning centers are excellent places for young students to get a positive and critical step up into school. Likewise, the education and connections for parents are also invaluable. Education and employment help add stability and security to a family.

Sound to Harbor provides services in Grays Harbor, Thurston, and Mason counties, and would be happy to talk with you about programs available for your family. Please take a look at more information about employment options or enrolling your child in a program. The Sound to Harbor Facebook page is a great place to follow for up-to-date news.

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