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Amarillo refugee families take advantage of educational program helping them prepare their children for school

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 6:34 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - A local educational program is helping parents who speak little to no English contribute to their children’s education.

Mission Amarillo’s ParentChild+ program started a new semester this week, and for the first time all participating families are refugees.

Like many immigrant parents, Far Tial’s goal is to make sure her son Joseph has a better quality of life. So, wanting to set him up for success at school, she signed up for mission Amarillo’s ParentChild+ program.

“I want him to learn a lot and be smarter,” said Tial.

Tial says in those two years, Joseph learned how to be respectful, his ABC, shapes, colors and numbers.

She adds that being able to do the sessions at home, with a specialist who spoke her native language, made her and joseph feel comfortable.

“He is not socialize people when he was little, so I was worried,” said Tial.

Is because of that comfortable feeling that the program has become particularly popular among refugee families.

“It really helps the moms because they’re trying to learn English too so; they’re learning English right along with their children,” said Christy Jalbert, program director of ParentChild+. “They’re right at the same level, they’re able to learn a lot of the same things.”

Families can enroll in the program with children as young as 16 months old, and will receive a 30-minute home visit twice a week for two years from an early-learning specialist who provides free books and toys to work on engagement strategies.

“I’ve talked to a lot of pre-K teachers and I’ve learned what kinds of things they need the children to know before they get to pre-K,” said Jalbert. “Of course, is little things like colors and shapes, those things are important, but it’s a lot of the social skills like how to sit still and listen to a book, how to turn the pages of a book, how to wait patiently for their turn, how to take turn and share, just a lot of those social interactions.”

The program is free for families who meet the income requirements.

Available languages include Chin, Karen and Burmese.

“We like to hire the moms that have been in our program,” said Jalbert. “They do the program for two years, then we get to hire them and they get to the program for people in their language.”

ParentChild+ is also available for English speaking families and is in fact looking for a handful of those families to join this semester.

“Those kids, their brains are growing so fast from age zero to five. They’re making 700 neural connections every second and their little brains are just growing so fast so I think parents don’t realize how important it is to engage children in some learning at that age,” said Jalbert

Joseph is now four years old and thriving in pre-K.

Tial is now working towards becoming an instructor herself and help other families.

If you are interested in applying, email christy@missionamarillo.org.

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