Monday, November 24, 2008

Baby Steps... by Sarah

In all honesty, it's been getting a little frustrating the past couple weeks here on the front lines. HIPPY is so fantastic, and would help the community so much, but it's hard to get decision-makers to listen give me the time of day. And I know I could convince them if they would just give me a chance! haha I mean the program really would sell itself if people only knew about it. But anyway, I did get the chance to meet with Heather, the Coordinator over at the Marie Huie Special Education Center in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD. I told her about the program and how beneficial it would be to the community and also to the special needs population. She agreed! She told me a few people that I should get in contact with over at the ISD, and she said she'd be glad to help out and serve as an advisory member to our cause! Admittedly, it's a baby step, but at least I'm making some progress :) The more people who believe HIPPY is needed in the community, the more likely it is that we can get something real started, and start meeting important needs in the community.
Yayy for progress!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Into the Wild by Sarah

This past week I attended the Texas HIPPY Kick-Off Retreat in Houston! I had a fabulous time getting to know the HIPPY coordinators, as well as all of our wonderful home instructors. And I learned a lot about each unique Texas HIPPY site and how different they are from one another! It all gave me a lot of ideas on how to market HIPPY and be creative about the different ways it could be implemented. For example, Richardson HIPPY is part of a whole complex, including 4 or 5 other non-profits who serve children aged 0-5. And Richardson Home Instructors not only work for HIPPY, but also for the other organizations (the only one I can remember is Parents as Teachers, but there are others as well) as well. Each program is funded differently (ie: HIPPY through Richardson ISD) but they all share the same employees and work space. Very efficient! And I'm sure it's very convenient for the families served, who can contact one location for all their pre-k/early education needs.

The retreat was also about trying new things. Many of the home instructors had never been camping before, or canoeing, or rock climbing, or any of the other fun things we did. It was a really great bonding experience, and I think we all had an awesome time. I know I did! In our cabins, we had to make a cabin name, and individual camper names. Our cabin was Far Far Away, and we were all Shrek characters (from either of the three movies). I was Snow White... for obvious reasons ;) (because I'm just so darn white... haha) I had some firsts myself: I climbed all the way to the top of the rock wall and rung the bell!! And I also tried archery for the first time, and on my first couple tries I hit the ring around the bull's eye :) Not bad for my first try! I'll get the bull's eye next time ;)

Here are some pictures of me climbing the rock wall!

That's me all the way at the top, ringing the bell! :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Houston, We Have a Problem... by Sarah

So last Wednesday, I got back to Dallas at around 11 AM, planning to head in to the office and get some work done before leaving for Houston Thursday, to attend the Governor's Nonprofit Leadership Conference. Before leaving my apartment, I decided I was going to print out my reservation information and conference confirmation, just so it was ready for the next day. But as I searched my inbox, low and behold!, not a reservation was to be found! Where was I staying? What time was I supposed to be there? Panic set in as I perused the GNLC website and discovered that check in for the conference was WEDNESDAY from noon to 5pm! So after two hours of frantic calls and e-mails, I finally pieced together some semblence of an agenda, and hit the road to Houston, not nearly in time to arrive by 5 pm, but resting assured that it would all be ok.

Despite my troubles and the headache that nagged me well into the 4.5 hour drive south, the conference was actually well worth it! The keynote speaker was fantastic: Heather McLeod Grant, co-author of Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits, a book which instantly earned a top slot on my '08 Christmas list. Naturally, the Governor, who was also supposed to speak, became 'unavoidably detained', so we turned our attention instead to a 3 minute generic video clip during his allotted time. The individual sessions were great too- My favorites were the presentation made by Benevon, an organization which teaches nonprofits to create sustainable funding; and one made by a OneStar Foundation rep on creating effective logic models, aptly titled "For Love of Logic Models". Both speakers were very entertaining, and their subject matter very applicable to my mission here with Texas HIPPY. By the end of the conference I was absolutely bursting with enthusiasm and new goals and tactics to take back with me to Home Sweet Carrollton.

Thanks OneStar Foundation for putting on an amazing conference!

Here's a picture of me and Tina at the conference! We were definitely listening to the presenter...

If anyone's interested in learning more about OneStar Foundation, their website is "OneStar Foundation: Texas Center for Social Impact is a statewide nonprofit that improves the lives of every Texan, every day."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Update! by Sarah

I've been pretty busy being involved with Special Care & Career projects, but I've made some slight HIPPY progress in the past two weeks that I thought I would go ahead and post about.I contacted the National Council of Jewish Women in Dallas, who have been faithful and vehement supporters of HIPPY for many years, to see if they had any tips for starting a program in Carrollton. I talked to Syl Benenson, who is a remarkably helpful lady, and it turns out that she has a friend who is a principal in Carrollton Farmers Branch Independent School District! So she is going to sing our praises to her friend, and hopefully I can set up a meeting to talk with her about the HIPPY program and see if she's interested in getting on board with our cause. Wish me luck!I also attended World Fest in Addison this past weekend and worked at the ECI booth. I made my own flyers about HIPPY and handed them out to people with preschool younguns. The flyers talked about the importance of school readiness and parent involvement, and how crucial the HIPPY program is to the success of young children starting school! I also included some great activities that promote cultural awareness, in keeping with the World Fest theme. Here's that section of it, just in case you have a young child:
We hope you enjoy World Fest 2008!!

*Try these nine ways to share cultural traditions with your young child:
Sing traditional lullabies to your baby.
Display objects or pictures that reflect your culture.
Read stories or fold tales from your culture and tell them to your children.
Share stories passed down from generation to generation.
Prepare foods that represent your culture with your child.
Take pictures of your celebrations and make a family album. Look through it often.
Visit other relatives and encourage them to share cultural practices from their childhood.
Invite friends and their families to share your holiday traditions and celebrations, and invite them to talk about theirs.
Tell your child the meaning of his/her name, if it has one in your culture.

*Greeting Games!
There are many different ways to greet people. Some cultures use gestures and do not use words, like bowing or touching noses. Here is a list of words that say “Hello” in different languages.
Hello (English)
Bonjour (French)
Ni Hao (Chinese)
Namaste (Hindi)
Hola (Spanish)
Jambo (Swahili)
Ciao (Italian)
Guten Tag (German)
Shalom (Hebrew)
Konichiwa (Japanese)

On a side note, I've just started up a new Junior Girl Scouts troop in Carrollton, so I'm excited to be getting involved in the community! I'm also starting to volunteer in my church, and for other community events (like Nature Fest a few weeks ago), so I'm really starting to feel like a member of the Carrollton community. And I voted early! So dare I say that I'm a Texan now? We'll see!

Monday, October 20, 2008

My First Parent Meeting by Sarah

On Friday, October 10th, I visited the Carrollton Early Childhood PTA at Holy Covenant Methodist Church. It was an amazing experience, and all of the parents were extremely friendly and helpful. I gave a brief presentation about the HIPPY model and my goal to start a HIPPY program in Carrollton. I passed out a flier I made called “The 1-2-3’s of HIPPY”, which listed the philosophy, goals, model and benefits of HIPPY, and asked that anyone who was interested in the program and in school readiness sign up for my mailing list. School readiness and parent involvement are so important for pre-k children, and I’m excited about the HIPPY model and getting a program in Carrollton started. And that can only happen if parents are interested and want it! And from the number of parents that signed up for my mailing list, parents do want it! Exciting!
They also invited me to their 18th Annual Silent Auction on Friday, November 14th, which will be held to raise money for their amazing organization. The CECPTA then uses 100% of the money raised to promote the welfare of area children and their families through parent education, children’s programs, community outreach and family activities. Sounds like a really fun event!

If anyone would like further information about the Carrollton Early Childhood PTA, their website is .

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And Last But Not Least... by Sarah

I've given a little information about HIPPY and about Special Care & Career Services, so it's only fitting that I should also mention the third organization I'm affiliated with: AmeriCorps. At the end of August, AmeriCorps sent me to Denver for a pre-service orientation, where they taught me about what it means to be a "VISTA", and explained the overall goal of the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
AmeriCorps VISTA is the national service program of the Corporation for National & Community Service that is specifically geared towards fighting poverty. So every single VISTA's overall goal in the back of their minds is to alleviate poverty, meaning it was important for me to try and understand how my role with HIPPY tied in. Admittedly, at first I didn't really understand how my job at HIPPY was going to fight poverty, but it became clearer as the orientation went on.
So here's yet another way HIPPY can benefit a community!!! Exciting! Many parents don't know how to get their kids ready for school in terms of literacy skills and exposure to learning, resulting in their child failing in school. This can potentially have a domino effect, and dig a hole which the child cannot pull him or herself out of, causing them to get further and further behind in their education. Additionally, the Home Instructors are given an extremely valuable opportunity to obtain job skills, and a college scholarship- a chance to lift themselves out of poverty if they had fallen into it.I also met some great people at the PSO, and it was amazing to be around so many community service oriented young minds! It's amazing to know that so many are dedicated to fighting poverty and helping their community in such unique ways.

Here's a picture of me and some of the wonderful VISTA's I met at the PSO- I know they're all going to do brilliant work in their communities!!!

If you want to learn more about AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Vista, please visit Tell them I sent you ;)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Shout Out to Special Care and Career! by Sarah

I really shouldn't go any further without giving a shout out to Special Care and Career Services, the agency that's sponsoring me and giving me office space and support this year. They're so great! Special Care and Career Services is a non-profit organization that serves people with disabilities. Their Early Childhood Intervention program provides services for children aged 0 to 3 with developmental delays and/or disabilities. Their Supported Employment program helps students with cognitive disabilities transition from high school to the work force, and also helps any other adults with cognitive disabilities find and keep a job. These are such important programs, and they positively affect the lives of hundreds of children and adults in our community every year.Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) serves north Dallas communities including Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Coppell, Irving, Addison, and parts of Dallas and Lewisville. They provide a FREE (absolutely free! Can you believe it?) in-home evaulation to every single child (birth to 3 yrs) in these communities, to try and detect any sign of a developmental delay or disability and to start treatment right away. After the in-depth screening and evaluation process, on-staff experts provide speech, physical and occupational therapy and instruction to the children and their primary caregivers either in the child’s home or daycare facility. Plus, I am especially grateful to Paula Tarver, who really pushed SCCS to help Texas HIPPY by housing me here. Without her work, I wouldn't be here at Special Care and Career! She has taught me so much about ECI and about the community I'm working in. And thanks to Carol Egusquiza, who has also been showing me the ropes around ECI!Supported Employment Services (SES) is another program here at Special Care and Career Services. Employment specialists work with individuals with cognitive disabilities to match them to meaningful jobs in companies needing their skills. Clients of Supported Employment often need help finding a job in the community that fits well with both their own needs and with the needs of employers. With thorough assessment and job development, on-the-job training and continued support, the Supported Employment program assures an optimal placement for both client and employer. What an amazing program! I've been tagging along with some staff members to a few client meetings, and let me tell you first hand that they do an amazing job! Thanks especially to Stephanie Agnew, Roberta Bower, and Helen Robinson for teaching me the ins and outs of SES (mind you, while simultaneously having to get all of their work done!!). All of the staff here at Special Care and Career Services have been so enormously helpful, and the director Cathy Packard asks me all the time if I need anything or if she can do anything to help me with my project. I'm so lucky to be so supported, both from Texas HIPPY and from Special Care and Career!! If you want to learn more about Early Childhood Intervention or Supported Employment Services here at Special Care and Career Services, please go to their website at or just ask me!

Monday, September 15, 2008

You're Moving to Texas to be a Hippy? by Sarah

The title of this post is a direct quote from my mother upon learning that I might be moving to Dallas to take a job with Texas HIPPY. So now that I'm here in Dallas (specifically Carrollton, a suburb north of Dallas) let me explain a little bit about the HIPPY program, a program so awesome that I've volunteered a year of my life to it!
HIPPY is an acronym (phew!) for Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters. It's a mouthful, but when you think about it, it's a great way to explain a complex program in a simple way. It is essentially, as its name suggests, a home-based school readiness program for children aged 3-5 in which home-instructors utilize role-play of curriculum with parents, who in turn teach the curriculum to their children. HIPPY teaches parents to become their child's first teacher, and empowers them to instill a love of learning in their children, strengthening the whole family unit in the process. In short, the process is thus: a HIPPY coordinator trains HIPPYCorps home instructors on developmentally age appropriate curriculum, the home instructors then role-play curriculum with HIPPY parents in their home, and then the parents teach the curriculum to their children.
I want to talk a little bit about just how beneficial this program is to all of the participants. I could go on and on about the logistics of the program, but I think the benefits of HIPPY are really what make the program so unique, and so impressive! The benefits of the HIPPY program to the community are really four-fold. First and foremost, the children benefit greatly from the home instruction that takes place under the HIPPY model. School-readiness for pre-school youngsters is the most important goal of HIPPY, and the curriculum included provides age-appropriate materials for children aged 3-5. When the time comes for children to begin school, they have already been exposed to the learning process, and can more readily adapt to an education-centered environment. The HIPPY model reduces the perception that the classroom and the learning process are foreign entities, and increases the perception that school and home are both venues for learning. Additionally, there are positive effects on the child through the growth and development of the family unit. Children become closer to their parent or parents, and start to look up to them as a role model and as their guide. They recognize that the parent is not just someone who fetches them food and cleans up after them, but as someone with knowledge to impart and with wisdoms to share. The HIPPY model strengthens the bond between parent and child.As many benefits as there are to the children through the HIPPY process, there are equally as many benefits for the parents. As previously mentioned, it strengthens the family unit, which is mutually beneficial to parent and child. Additionally though, being able to mentor and teach their children really empowers the parent and makes them feel like someone worthy of their child's affection, and worthy of being looked up to. This in turn boosts the parents' confidence level, producing a positive attitude which can easily spill over into other areas of their family and professional lives. The group meetings also provide a venue in which parents can share ideas and insights, contributing to their feelings of success and confidence. Additionally, parents have an opportunity to meet other parents like themselves, and friendships are formed, building lasting connections and relationships within the community.
The HIPPY model also positively effects schools in the community (which is a primary reason HIPPY is more often than not situated at a school district or with several individual schools). In quantitative terms, the HIPPY program has directly contributed to higher test scores of children who went through the program, and teachers overwhelmingly deemed their students who were in HIPPY "ready for school". The HIPPY program also leads more parents to be involved in their child's education following the conclusion of the program. HIPPY parents are more likely to volunteer at their child's school, join a PTA or other organization, and/or take an interest in their child's education in some other way.
And as the fourth group positively affected by the HIPPY program, the home-instructors themselves receive a number of benefits for their contributions to the HIPPY process. HIPPYCorps members receive the Segal Education Award (an AmeriCorps scholarship of $2,363), which encourages them to seek higher education following their service, which in turn will help them become that much more employable. Additionally, the opportunity to be a home-instructor is often their first job, and provides excellent job training and the experience needed to transition into the working world. The home-instructors not only improve their own future through education and job experience, they become role models for the HIPPY parents and the community at large. They are also provided with income, and receive all the other benefits that come along with being an AmeriCorps member (such as loan forbearance, health care, etc.). Home-instructors can stay in their position for a limited term of 3 years, in order to continuously provide this opportunity to the community.
By George I think they've got it! They really have thought of everything, which is going to make it so much easier for me to complete my mission here this year. It's always easier to promote something you really care about and believe in, and that's definitely how I feel about HIPPY!
So I told my Mom all of this, and needless to say, she felt a little better about her baby moving off to Texas to work for those HIPPY folks! A happy ending indeed.

If you want to learn more about Texas HIPPY or HIPPY USA, either ask me! Or go to for our state program site, or for our national site.

Monday, September 1, 2008

It's About Time by Sarah

Well, it's about time I learned how to blog! Let me start out by introducing myself, and explaining what my little self is doing in the giant state of Texas.I'm Sarah, bright-eyed idealist, fresh out of college and ready to tackle the world! I've lived an Army Brat life, so when I finished my undergraduate degree at Florida International University (in International Relations with a Certificate in European Studies), what can I say, I was restless and ready for a change. I thought about my options: go straight to Grad school, find a real job, or take a year off and do community service. I think the key factor in making my decision was what I said earlier: that I was "ready for a change". And I wanted a change not just in my life, but to inspire a change (dare I say I wanted to change the world?) So the choice was clear; community service it is!I learned about AmeriCorps Vista when I was in my "I want to join the Peace Corps" phase. A friend suggested it as a less-likely-to-contract-a-fatal-disease-but-still-serving-in-a-big-way option. So I looked into it and applied for a few VISTA positions, really on a whim. Almost immediately, I got a call from Texas HIPPY, and David told me a little bit about their program and what they were trying to do in North Texas. I went to the website and read about the HIPPY model, and within a few hours I was sold. Here was an important and much needed cause that I could really get into, and meanwhile love what I'm doing (also known as a "win-win" or "jackpot" scenario). So when they offered me the job, I jumped on it! And started counting down the days until I would load up my big orange car (Frau Cow) and head west to the Big D and to a new chapter of my life.