Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Quite Inspiring by Sarah

I recently nominated my boss Carla for the State Farm Service Learning Champion award. While the results are not yet it, I wanted to share my nomination narrative with you all so that you will know what a great boss I have!

As state director of Texas HIPPY, Carla Weir has made a very significant impact on the lives of the people she has come into contact with, as well as the entire communities her program serves. Carla started the first Texas HIPPY program in the Dallas Independent School District in 1988. As the first HIPPY Coordinator in Texas, Carla had a vision; she wanted to break the generational chain of poverty in her community by starting small. Dallas HIPPY started out in two elementary schools, serving only a handful of families, but meaning the world to those children who entered school confidently, and ready to succeed, and to those parents and home instructors who felt empowered to improve their own lives as they watched their children grow. The Dallas HIPPY program was the first US program to focus particularly on low income, Latino families, and the difference that Carla made to those families inspired many others to take up the HIPPY cause. Her dedication to her HIPPY families has changed countless lives, and sparked so many other people’s interest and commitment to the HIPPY model and philosophy. The program has since grown to 7 Texas communities, serving 1,700 families statewide, and is still growing. Carla took on a leadership role in HIPPY at the national and international level, as the first US HIPPY Coordinator serving immigrant families, was selected to be a national trainer the first year this position was opened (1990), and became the Director of Texas HIPPY in 1998. In 2008, we celebrated 20 years of HIPPY in Texas and Carla celebrated her 20th year with HIPPY.
There are a number of benefits of the HIPPY program to the community, impacting four groups of people differently: children, parents, schools, and the home instructors themselves. 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 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. There are also positive effects on the child through the growth and development of the family unit. Children become closer to their parents, and start to look up to them as a role model and as their guide. The HIPPY model strengthens the bond between parent and child.
Additionally, children who have gone through the HIPPY program learn a strong sense of volunteerism which continues to grow throughout their lives. There is much data and research to support the claim that children of volunteers become volunteers themselves. They themselves are very likely to be involved in community service projects and participate in service-learning initiatives of their own. Carla’s work with the HIPPY program has undoubtedly inspired countless children to grow into active community members in youth, and grow into prominent community advocates into adulthood.
As many benefits as there are to children through the HIPPY process, there are equally as many benefits for the parents. Being able to mentor and teach their children empowers the parent and makes them feel like someone worthy of their child's admiration. 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 parent 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. 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. HIPPY parents and home instructors are rewarded for volunteering at their child’s school, and simultaneously instill a strong sense of volunteerism in their young children, as previously mentioned.
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. Home instructors 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. Home instructors can stay in their position for a limited term of 3 years, in order to continuously provide this opportunity to the community.
Carla’s current goals are to expand HIPPY services by providing support and technical assistance to interested communities. One strategy is through the implementation of the HIPPY*VISTA partnership, which places an AmeriCorps VISTA member onsite in an interested community through the support of a sponsoring agency. Carla has pushed HIPPY so far over the last 20 years, and is clearly not slowing down! Her dedication to the youth of Texas communities is unmatched, and the impact she has had around the state is immeasurable. Over the past 20 years, more than 25,000 Texas children have participated in HIPPY with their parents. Because HIPPY has a positive effect on the whole family, it is estimated that Texas HIPPY has influenced over 75,000 individuals, leading to increased service to the community, volunteering and greater support for education and community service. All because one woman started small, and ended up making a big difference.

I hope that 20 years from now I have as much to show for 2 decades of life as Carla does! Doesn't it just make you want to go out and make a difference somehow? Good luck, and God speed!

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