Ethan is a father of three. He and his daughters are participants in the NCFL Family Learning program at 2NOT1 Fatherhood and Families in Kentucky. NCFL Family Learning includes adult skill building, Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®, and Parent Time in which participants learn how to better support their children in and outside of school. Ethan was recently invited to share his family literacy story at the 2018 Families Learning Conference.
To understand Ethan’s journey, you’d have to take a peek into his childhood. At a very early age, his mother would take him to her night classes, his carrier in one hand and a tattered book bag bogged down with books over her shoulder. As a single parent, she always stressed the importance of education to her three biological children, as well as the seven other children she would take in during the course of his childhood.
“It may sound cliché, but my mother was the hardest working woman I’ve ever known,” Ethan said. “She consistently kept two or three jobs, always putting her kids first and rarely taking time out for herself.”
When Ethan was only 16, he witnessed his mother having a heart attack. Alone with her in her bedroom, he watched as she took her last breath. “At that moment I felt my future die with her,” Ethan recounted. “She was my motivation, my accountability…my backbone, gone in the blink of an eye.”
After her death, Ethan battled depression and struggled to focus in school. He went from taking AP classes to dropping out of high school his senior year. That same year, he took a trip to Panama City Beach, Florida. It was there, on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, that he decided to let go of all of his pain, anger, and frustration. He came to terms with his mother’s death while sitting on a rock on the beach.
In the years following, he and his high school sweetheart became the proud parents to three girls. Unfortunately, after suffering injuries from multiple car wrecks, the girls’ mother became addicted to prescription pain medication. When her addiction reached its height, Ethan and his partner decided that it was best to separate and that their daughters live with Ethan full-time.
Becoming a single parent practically overnight was a very eye-opening experience for Ethan. “The weight of bearing the sole responsibility of three children on my own was overwhelming,” he recalled. “Soon I started to show signs of depression.”
When his longtime friends had trouble relating to his daily struggles, he decided to look for a support group of sorts. That’s when he found 2NOT1 Fatherhood and Families. “Dr. Turner and the staff at [2NOT1] welcomed me with open arms,” he said.
When Ethan began attending the NCFL Family Learning program at 2NOT1, he was somewhat dubious. “I felt that I already was active in my kids’ lives, from school to extracurricular activities, to even our daily lives in the house. What was ultimately eye opening to me was how inactive I was in my own life.”
In NCFL’s Family Learning program, parents record the time they spend with their children doing learning activities (Parent and Child Together [PACT] Time®) and the time they spend doing activities that improve themselves as parents (Parent Time). Ethan had no issue filling out the PACT Time log because he is highly involved in his kids’ lives. However, his Parent Time log was a different story.
“I realized that I took little to no time at all out of the week to focus on myself. No "me time" to refresh my battery as a parent,” Ethan explained. “I realized that this was a learned behavior and could’ve been a factor in my mom’s demise.”
Through numerous conversations at 2NOT1, he found that this is a common theme for parents. He began to see that he couldn’t take care of anything if he didn’t take care of himself first. Eventually, with the gentle nudge of Dr. Turner, he began to exercise at the gym again, focus on his career path, and push for a sense of stability in his family’s life.
Within a matter of four months, Ethan and his daughters went from staying with family friends to securing their own house. He got a job with the Board of Education and has recently begun looking into furthering his education in the education field.
The NCFL Family Learning program also inspired Ethan to become more active in his community. Family Service Learning, a component of the program, was a tool that mobilized his family to go out in the community and help provide much-needed assistance to the less fortunate. Through Family Service Learning, he and his daughters have organized Trunk or Treats with local care clubs for kids in underserved neighborhoods, organized a massive Easter egg hunt, and made Thanksgiving turkeys out of apples with seniors living in nursing homes.
Since participating in the NCFL Family Learning program, Ethan has become a parent advocate and a mentor at 2NOT1. “Having the chance to pass down all of the information I received through our NCFL curriculum to parents and fathers and see them implementing it with their families is priceless,” Ethan said. “I stress to our fathers how important it is for them to recognize that they are their children’s first teacher. That is a responsibility that can’t be taken lightly.”
Addressing the attendees at the 2018 Families Learning Conference, Ethan said, “I stand before you today to shed light on how the NCFL Family Learning program taught me the value and importance of self-care so I could be a better and more important father in my children’s lives…I don’t believe my family would be where we are without NCFL and 2NOT1.”
November is National Family Literacy Month®, a time when we celebrate families who are working to better their lives and the tireless efforts of those working in family literacy and family-focused programs. On Fridays in November, we're sharing an inspirational story of an adult learner who has participated in an NCFL family literacy program.
Toyota Family Learning Program
Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.
Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities
William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust
NCFL received its very first donation in 1989 from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to promote and implement family literacy programming, first in Kentucky and North Carolina and later nationwide. The Kenan Family Literacy Model in part laid the groundwork for 30 years of subsequent family literacy and family learning programming developed by NCFL.
Kenan has continued to support NCFL’s place-based family literacy programs since our inception. Most recently, they invested in the organization’s Innovation Fund, which will launch emerging ideas and programmatic evolutions in the multigenerational learning space.Learn more about the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust
Dollar General Literacy Foundation
The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to reach the 35.7 million adults ages 18-64 who do not have a high school diploma by guiding them to better-paying, more stable jobs.
The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.
Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.Learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation
PNC Grow Up Great
PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.
PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994 to advance early literacy and learning resources for vulnerable families. Current efforts supported by PNC include a collaborative initiative in two at-risk Detroit communities that engages families to support vocabulary development for children under age 5.
NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.Learn more about PNC Grow Up Great
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
NCFL was named a recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s "Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge," which seeks to elevate diverse voices in order to broaden the conversation about the issues inhibiting economic mobility and generate deeper awareness along with actionable understanding. NCFL will develop and launch a podcast series that will highlight the remarkable stories of low-income, diverse families across the U.S. who have improved their communities through Family Service Learning.Foundation Website
NCFL has partnered with the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University since 2001, working collaboratively to further research, professional development, and policy efforts for family literacy and intergenerational learning.
The work of this partnership includes, but is not limited to, a strong research strand at NCFL's national annual convening, the Families Learning Summit; advocacy for family literacy and learning to further support for and inclusion of family-focused education in new and ongoing legislation; and dissemination of the latest research, resources, information, and professional development opportunities for literacy and learning practitioners and advocates, including the Certificate in Family Literacy provided by the Goodling Institute.Learn more about the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University