Central Carolina Community College’s Family Literacy Program

Hernan Sanchez, 10, bent over his math homework. During the day, he had studied in his fourth grade class at Pittsboro Elementary School. Now it was evening and he was back again, hitting the books.

"This is more fun than watching TV," he said with a smile. "We learn more."

Hernan is one of about 25 children and 23 parents who show up at the elementary school each Monday and Thursday evening for Central Carolina Community College's Family Literacy Program. While the parents learn English usage and basic skills, school-age children receive homework help one-on-one in a relaxed atmosphere. Pre-schoolers enjoy supervised play.

The program is unique in Chatham County, according to Sara Lambert, CCCC Basic Skills coordinator in Chatham. The outreach to the predominantly Latino, non-English-speaking community was the brainchild of Linda Starkweather, Pittsboro Elementary School English as a second language teacher.

"I wanted to start this because I've been a teacher many, many years and I know you need the family involved," she said. "The best programs involve parents and children."

She and the CCCC's Basic Skills staff worked together to begin offering an English and basic skills outreach program at Roca Fuerte Church in Pittsboro three years ago. The program moved to Pittsboro Elementary a year ago. The school location provided space and opportunity to add the homework and childcare components to the outreach.

Carolina Meadows recently awarded a $9,000 Carolina Meadows Community Grant to the Family Literacy Program. The grant is funding a volunteer coordinator, child tutor coordinator and a preschool childcare provider.

"We at Carolina Meadows are pleased to have this new relationship with CCCC and to be a partner in its important work," said Dr. Tom Miller, vice chairman of the Carolina Meadows board of directors. "We are pleased to award the grant to sustain and strengthen current child tutoring and childcare components of the Family Literacy Program."

Dr. Karen Allen, CCCC Chatham provost, said that the program has been a community partnership.

"We very much appreciate the financial support of Carolina Meadows and the collaboration with Chatham County Schools which make this exciting program possible," she said. "In addition, I would like to thank the gracepoint (church) literacy outreach team and other volunteers who come to classes regularly and assist in so many ways."

One of those is Rayanne Antonelli, a freshman at Northwood High School.

"I like the kids, I like helping them," she said as she worked with Hernan on his math. Helping the children with their homework also gives her an opportunity to practice her Spanish.

The adult class uses Starkweather's classroom for both group and one-on-one instruction. On a recent evening, she tutored a Chinese-speaking student with almost no English skills, while Susan Strozier, a web designer by day, instructed a group of six women in English skills.

Why do the adults come? For them, the answers are obvious.

"We come because it's necessary to learn English," said student Rosalia Villanueva, a 14-year resident of Pittsboro.

The other students nodded in agreement. They come to learn for themselves. They also come to show their children how important it is to learn English and to work hard in school.

"We know that one of the most powerful influences on a child's education is the support of the family," Allen said. "Increasing educatiof the parents promotes school success in the children. Not only does this program give parents with children the opportunity to attend classes; it also provides a supportive educational setting for the children at the same time. It's a wonderful model."

For more information on the Family Literacy Program, to enroll or to volunteer, contact Judy Herndon, CCCC Chatham Basic Skills recruiter, at (919) 542-6495, ext. 211, or by email at: jherndon@cccc.edu