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Nov 27, 2017 |
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In this guest post, Ashley Boyd Pierce, adult education ESL program specialist and instructor for Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, shares her program's Family Service Learning project that not only benefits newcomers to her community, but helps program participants gain employability skills: [caption id="attachment_10577" align="alignleft" width="180"]NCFL Image Participants in the JCPS-Americana Family Learning Program[/caption] “One of the things I hear often from my friends and students who are refugees is: I want to be able to help people again,” shared Parent Facilitator Kristy Robison after beginning the first Family Service Learning project of the JCPS-Americana Family Learning Program. The JCPS-Americana program, an NCFL Family Learning partner site in Louisville, Kentucky, is made up of immigrant and refugee participants who remember their challenging transition to the United States. After brainstorming about who they want to help, they became very passionate about helping other newcomer families. The participants decided to make welcome bags to distribute through the Survivors of Torture Recovery Center (STRC), located in their community. [caption id="attachment_10575" align="alignright" width="225"]Americana_2 The parents sort donations before making a list of total items.[/caption] After creating a list of items to use in the bags, participants reached out to potential receiving agencies. Other participants were tasked with creating a donations flyer in Microsoft Word. The Parent Facilitator was able to integrate various lessons into this project including practical computer skills, creating a community web to identify the group’s resources, and practice conversations to ask for donations. The momentum began to build once the groundwork was laid and the plans were made. The participants asked their friends and ESL teachers for donations, and the flyer was shared on social media. Each day families would bring in their own donations, including cash. During class, the group organized the donations and made a list of other items that could be bought with the cash donation. One family volunteered to go shopping with the cash for the remaining items. [caption id="attachment_10576" align="alignleft" width="300"]A family from Haiti makes welcome cards to include in the bags. A family from Haiti makes welcome cards to include in the bags.[/caption] The beautiful part of the families’ individual donations is the thought behind the items. There are many items that were not even on the flyer's list—laundry detergent, towels, lotion, body wash, razors, shaving cream, hand soap, for example. The towels and blankets were colorful and fun. These families remember what they had or wished they had that improved life in a new country. Additionally, the parents and children made welcome cards to include in the bags to add an extra personal touch. JCPS-Americana Family Learning participants will soon complete 12-15 welcome bags. They will personally be able to walk them over to STRC as it is next to Americana World Community Center, where the family learning program takes place. The families identified and utilized their strengths, developed new skills, and worked collectively as a group to complete this project. They were also able to reflect on how much they have grown and adapted to life in a new country and culture. Now each family has an outstanding story of how they are able to help people again. The skills that they have used and learned will inevitably encourage and empower them to continue serving others in the community.

Interested in beginning a Family Service Learning project in your community? Check out the following for inspiration: Have questions? Contact Dr. Josh Cramer, vice president of NCFL, at  


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NCFL Partners

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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

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®.

Go to Dollar General Literacy Foundation's website

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.

PNC Grow Up Great

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

NCFL has partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation since January 2016. The Foundation is currently supporting a dynamic two-generation family engagement initiative that expands NCFL's Family Learning model into select Head Start programs nationwide. NCFL's model presents an innovative way to support Head Start programs in meeting outcomes aligned with the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework.

Visit the Foundation website

Better World Books

Better World Books selected NCFL as its domestic literacy partner in 2005 and has raised more than $1 million to support NCFL’s work and donated more than $15 million to support literacy and education efforts worldwide. Better World Books is a triple-bottom-line online bookstore, working equally for people, planet and profit. Each book purchased powers literacy across the world.

Better World Books’ support of NCFL has provided books and workshops to families after Hurricane Katrina, donated large book donations to literacy programs and families nationwide and fueled innovative family literacy and learning programs and resources in libraries, schools and community-based organizations. In addition to their work for literacy and education, Better World Books diverts books from landfills and offers carbon-balanced shipping.

Better World Books

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In 2013, NCFL began a partnership with the Gates Foundation to ensure that our network of students, teachers, and families thrive among recent shifts in standards-based education. NCFL will leverage the unique strengths of our award-winning Wonderopolis® platform to build upon the growing teacher network that uses the resource for core daily instruction and as a basis for professional growth.

Foundation Website

Goodling Institute

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.

Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University