NAPA VALLEY REGISTER
A recent Bay Area report highlighted Napa’s McPherson Elementary School as an example of a successful “community school.”
Community schools are those that bring support and services — like health care, food programs and parent workshops — into the schools to “promote the overall well-being of children and their families.”
The report, released by United Way of the Bay Area and Partnership for Children and Youth, states that community schools, like McPherson, help break the cycle of poverty.
At McPherson Elementary, an on-campus family resource center can help connect parents with food stamps, Section 8 housing subsidies, health resources and parenting classes. The United Way — in partnership with several other organizations — helps fund the Family Resource Center.
McPherson has had a Family Resource Center for four years. The center has four full-time staff members and one person working part-time.
Prior to the resource center, McPherson had a bilingual community liaison who would help parents with non-school-related issues — but that type of assistance only worked as a temporary “Band-Aid,” McPherson principal Tamara Sanguinetti said.
“We were looking more to empower parents with skills,” Sanguinetti said.
One of the most popular programs offered through the Family Resource Center is the Napa Valley Parent University.
The program, which was created by Queen of the Valley Medical Center and a nonprofit called On the Move, offers a variety of classes to help Napa-area parents improve their parenting as well as their participation in the schools and community. The program is available in several local elementary schools in addition to McPherson.
Jaclyn Kordell, director of McPherson’s Family Resource Center, said McPherson offered about 52 Parent University classes during the last school year, and approximately 330 parents were enrolled.
What the school discovered, Sanguinetti said, was that empowering parents with new skills had a profound effect on their children. “It’s critical to academic success,” she said.
The Family Resource Center is more than “just a room in a school,” Kordell said. “It’s a place where (families) feel welcome and safe.”
Many of the parents who use the resource center are recent immigrants, Kordell said.
Community schools, similar to McPherson, exist across the country. In Napa County, Calistoga Junior and Senior High School also follows the community school model.
Calistoga parent Ruth Rodriguez said the Family Resource Center at her children’s school has improved all of their lives. “It’s been really, really helpful for my family,” she said.
Rodriguez, her husband, and their five children moved to Calistoga from Mexico in 2004. Rodriguez said they came to the United States so the children could have a better education and a brighter future.
One year after moving to Calistoga, Rodriguez suffered a stroke and was temporarily unable to work. The Family Resource Center, she said, helped her enroll in a program to help pay for one month of rent.
Over the years, Rodriguez also enrolled in classes at the resource center — including a parent leadership class and a business course that focused on financial education and economic self-sufficiency.
The generosity her family received inspired her children to give back, Rodriguez said. They’ve worked as peer tutors, distributed food baskets during the holidays and have volunteered at Family Resource Center fundraisers.
Her two oldest children, ages 19 and 21, are now enrolled in college. Her three youngest still attend school in Calistoga.
“I feel like (the Family Resource Center) makes a huge difference for the community,” Rodriguez said. “For us, it’s been such a great resource.”