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One of the nice things about being a community based organization is that we can be flexible in our approach, and can vary the services that we offer, especially to parents, each year.

When a family signs up to participate in BLCI activities (and we do have an application process) they commit to be involved as a family. Because we offer our services free of charge, we ask that each family commits to volunteering and participating in other parent activities for a minimum of 30 hours per year. In a moment I’ll outline the services we currently offer, but first I’ll address the English classes.

Many years ago we contemplated the idea of hosting ESL classes at BLCI, however, due to the varying fluency levels, the fact that our expertise is not in teaching English to adults and because there are a great variety of free and low-cost courses already available all over the county, we decided to refer parents to classes rather than offer them. But the other major challenge we ran into is time — most of our parents are working multiple jobs to make ends meet. It has nothing to do with their lack of interest of learning English, but rather is a function of the cost of living in San Diego.

Having said that, many of the parents we serve do take or have taken English classes, but we must remember that language acquisition does not happen overnight. Now back to what we currently offer to parents. Our adult curriculum centers on different types of activities.

The first group is centered on supporting their children’s education process and accessing higher education. As you can imagine, the topics vary by grade or age level — what a family needs to do in third grade is vastly different than what a family needs to do in their child’s senior year. Having said that, workshops cover everything from how the US educational system is set up, their rights in the school system, parent conferences, school options (district transfers, charter schools, and independent schools), the structure of the higher education system, and financial aid, among many, many others.

The second group of activities is more centered on family stability and access to resources. We survey the parents annually to assist us in planning workshops.

In the past we’ve held workshops on communication and leadership skills, gang and drug awareness, first time home buying, financial literacy, immigration, housing, and environmental issues.

In addition the actual workshops, we maintain a resource referral list that includes everything from health insurance, to continuing education courses, such as ESL and GED classes. Because of our model, our program staff works very closely with the families; they also meet individually with each parent and student two times per year. Much of the resource referral we do is on an individual level.

— DIANA GETRICH VILLEGAS

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