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.