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Families Are Resources (FAR)

We will educate multi-generational, low-income families about the steps THEY must take to eliminate generational poverty and be successful.

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Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

Our mentor, Amanda, helped us become more fixated on a small number of pillars upon which our services will be provided. We learned that because we are looking at families from a strength-based lens, we allow families to build on their own strengths as opposed to waiting for someone to come and do something "for them." Amanda also helped us to see that by providing many services within our community, we are able to quickly identify other programs and partners who can assist us in doing the work. Conversations with stakeholders, partners and participating parent leaders led us to streamline our idea into three pillars of work (explained below in Business Viability).

Name or Organization

The Educational Advocates Reaching Today's Hardworking Students, Inc. (EARTHS) is the lead agency; Mercy Neighborhood Ministries of Philadelphia (Early Childcare Center); PARENT POWER (parent advocates and organizers); The Parent Leaders Advisory Network (conducts parent-led, interactive literacy, math and arts workshops for parents and children); North Philadelphia Project (provides healthy lifestyles guidance) and Bright Lights (improves parent-child interactions with literacy).

Geography

We are in North Philadelphia, targeting families living in the 19121, 19132 and 19140 zip codes.

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD

Type

  • Non-profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

We will use evidence-based, Parents-as-Teachers (PAT) home visits to meet teen parents where they are and add a multi-generational, parent-to-parent mentoring program that is focused on providing families with the information, resources and support needed to become more enlightened, empowered and engaged in their children's academic success. This strategy will help grandparents see that although the educational system may have failed their generation; their pregnant and parenting teen-aged children (and their infant-toddler grandchildren) are entitled to better educational opportunities.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Network: Connecting people with each other to enhance the reach or effectiveness of new or existing resources.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

The EARTHS and its partner agencies will help families of teen parents recognize their potential and contributions, rather than view their lives from a deficit model. By conducting parent-led, interactive literacy, math and art workshops for multiple generations within each family and using evidence-based home visits focused on improving parent-child interactions with literacy; we will transition community members into community leaders and build a new kind of family network. Society will begin to see that parents NEED to be part of the solution to many of the ills within urban areas. We have heard the expression, "It takes a village to raise a child," however in many low-income communities, the village is virtually non-existent. By using internal relationships, there will be a re-building of the community's "village” needed to coach teens to academic success. No one has come into this community to save us; so now, we must save ourselves. Participating pregnant and parenting teens will be encouraged to go "FAR" by highly valuing education and themselves, engaging in parent-child literacy sessions, attending school, getting better grades, graduating and/or having fewer behavioral problems than their peers whose families do not participate. This high regard for education will subsequently be passed on to their infants and toddlers, thus improving the chances for their academic success and reducing the likelihood of sustained, generational poverty.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

Contrary to stereotypes and myths about the complacency of urban parents, The EARTHS and its partners will create grass-roots, community-based coalitions of family members who develop a changed mindset about who they are, what their families deserve and how their families should be treated. Using evidence-based methods to improve academic results for their pregnant and parenting teenaged children and young grandchildren will help us break the cycle of generational poverty within our community.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

As a community, we understand that we have three precious years in which to convince a young parent that he/she is the most qualified to be their child’s lead educator. The PLAN will conduct parent-led, interactive, "back and forth" reading, math and art activities for low-income families that include pregnant and parenting teens (with children up to three years old) who live or attend schools located in zip codes 19121, 19132 and 19140. Extensive train-the-trainer workshops will allow these family members to learn the skills needed to facilitate the Let's Read Math curriculum, improve vocabulary, create/build home libraries (each family takes at least one "book of the month" and related materials home) and reinforce parent-child learning at home. Let's Read Math was created by Dr. Claire who decided she was "getting too seasoned," and willingly shared the curriculum with our families to spread the word about her concept and to help families see how much fun they can have learning literacy, math and art. Our program is innovative because it is parent-led and designed to involve grandparents, parents and caregivers in a consistent and intentional manner that will help teen parents and their children progress academically. Using the evidence-based, Parent as Teachers (PAT) model, families will be supported in times of transition; obtain the resources they need to encourage their children’s learning and development; and get reassurance from other families within their community. We are fortunate to collaborate with several community partners who will assist in implementing this idea. Bright Lights representatives will help families build positive and healthy self-esteem by connecting them to their native culture and customs. Partnerships with Mercy Neighborhood Ministries Family Service's Early Learning Center (Mercy) will allow families to experience relationships with high quality, early care programs that are affirming, reciprocal and build upon their strengths. PARENT POWER will help parents, grandparents and adult family members grow in their leadership by using learned skills to recruit others. The North Philadelphia Project will ensure that families have healthy, nutritional and fitness goals of their own and benefit from supportive partners who help them reach and/or revise their goals. The EARTHS will provide the peer-to-peer mentoring and experiential learning opportunities that all parents need to prioritize education and build meaningful parent-child connections that promote a love of reading. At the end of each workshop/activity/interaction, we will listen to participants as they tell us what they need to strengthen their ability to implement what they are learning. We have established secure partnerships with several family-based agencies that focus on ways to break the cycle of poverty. Our individual partners provide our families with tangible resources (Ms. Denise distributes diapers, non-perishable food, clothing and car seats; Mr. Jay offers technology assistance and training; Ms. Toya helps spread the word about the effectiveness of our programs and Ms. LaSkeetia trains other parents using Let's Read Math workshops). Our goal is to show families how FAR they can go by accessing various resources themselves. Ms. Quibila represents PARENT POWER on Philadelphia's READ by 4th (Grade Level Reading Campaign's) Leadership Council by sharing quantitative, program data and offering advice about effectively serving and communicating with vulnerable families. With support from OpenIDEO, we expect that our family participation will double; because given an opportunity, parents will enjoy taking leadership roles within their communities, reading to their infant-toddler children and grandchildren, and engaging with other families. Families will transition from merely participating in our workshops to leading them. An intrinsic understanding of their "parent power" to create innovative, learning experiences for their children and grandchildren will develop and last for generations. Technology will be used to record each session and allow families to participate virtually and/or review later, if needed. Each partner agency is a member of the North Philadelphia Collaboration, a group comprised of dedicated individuals and agencies focused on working with the community to improve the community for the benefit of the community in which we all live and work.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Low-income, pregnant and parenting teens, their families and their children will primarily benefit from this idea. Teens, whose parents or adult family members participate, will be more likely to attend school regularly, have higher grades, graduate from high school, find/make a productive career, and have fewer behavioral problems than their peers whose parents are not participating. Participating teens will be more likely to travel outside of their neighborhood to attend a museum, cultural activity, library, and/or conference. In addition, the surrounding community will benefit from families' increased desire to hold elected and appointed officials accountable. The real issue that we will address, “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty”, is of interest to every poor family in America. No one wants to be poor and if provided with an opportunity to learn how to reverse their situation, through civic engagement, many adults will take it. The EARTHS have conducted workshops and trainings for low income students and their families for over 20 years. Our approach has been to help society see that low-income parents, family and community members are resources and should be welcomed into their children's schools, part of the decision-making processes and solutions to many of the societal ills that we see in urban areas. We started with providing tutorial sessions for school-aged youth and in serving the youth, saw a real need to include their parents and younger siblings.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

Philadelphia, like many large, impoverished cities, has seen a rise in violence by youth who are getting younger and angrier. Despite society's best attempts to prosecute its way out of this situation, we will only succeed in tackling this problem by thinking systemically. Many have cited parent engagement (or the lack thereof) as the problem, yet few have had the crucial conversations needed to engage family and community members in the process of developing a solution. The root cause of the problem is that the level of expectations that society has for urban teens (and their family members), needs to be raised in homes, in schools, and in the community. Only then, will low-income family and community members see the value of a quality education and its relevance in obtaining and sustaining a high-quality life. By partnering pregnant and parenting teens with older adults who have successfully survived similar community ills, Families Are Resources (FAR) can be replicated within schools, made scalable on a national level, and made available to diverse populations and neighborhoods. We will help families go FAR; by meeting participating teens where they are and providing needed resources to incentivize their engagement and continued academic success. A culture change will begin as multiple generations are motivated to become scholarly and serve as positive role models for their neighbors. The urban "village' will be re-built and embrace its families as resources.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Our idea and all of our work is intentional in serving and impacting low-income children, their families and communities because that is who and what we are. Each agency is in and/or has individuals who live within the low-income areas proposed to be served. The pregnant and parenting teens, their families and their children live in an urban area that has many half-way houses, recovering addicts, and ex-offenders. On any given day, in the targeted zip codes of 19121, 19132, and 19140, 1 out of 4 students is absent from school. On average, 40% of the residents in these zip codes live in poverty. Half of the students are in schools that have not academically performed for two or more years. Unfortunately, too many of these targeted teens know a friend or family member who has been incarcerated, murdered, shot, chronically unemployed, and/or addicted to drugs/alcohol. These teens and their families are victims of generational poverty and as a result, they suffer from a lack of resources (emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, relational, informational, AND financial). The purpose of our idea is to help low-income families see how FAR they can go when they choose to invest their time and energy in themselves, their families and their communities. Since many of us still live in the community in which we serve, our assistance is accepted because our intentions are authentic.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

Our concept is innovative because it is for us and by us. We are not fooled into thinking that someone is going to come into our community and do for us what we must do for ourselves. Literacy workshops and evidenced-based home visits will be conducted by parents and grandparents who have transitioned from active parents to parent activists. History proves that we are not afraid to meet our neighbors where they are to complete the work. Research (Epstein, Henderson and Mapp) shows that when parents (or concerned adults) are actively engaged in a child's academic life, the child does better. This is despite the race, income, or zip code of the child's family. By providing families with the tools to successfully advocate for a quality education, young children will become more encouraged, coached, and motivated to succeed. The children will be held to higher expectations due to the increased knowledge of their families. In 2012, The School District of Philadelphia announced a plan to close 37 schools (22 of which were elementary schools in Philadelphia’s lowest income neighborhoods in the 19121, 19132 and 19140 zip codes). At that point, it became obvious that the need for an alternative PLAN to educate and galvanize parents and community members around the issue of an equal opportunity at a quality education could help in reducing violence, drop-out rates, poverty and truancy. Hundreds of parents, family and community members were actively engaged in the conversations and decisions that led to the creation of the North Philadelphia Collaboration’s counter-proposal to the district’s list of recommended school closures. Together, catchment area maps were reviewed, school and census data were examined, and school comparisons were made. The following school year, PARENT POWER hosted monthly Family Nights for parents, family and community members within the targeted zip codes. Each month, there were at least 35 to 40 families participating in Let’s Read Math activities, Beyond the Bake Sale Book Club discussions and/or School Tours. PARENT POWER and The EARTHS partnered to recruit participants and conduct workshops. Quarterly, The EARTHS created experiential learning opportunities for families, including intentional, relationship-building opportunities such as local trips to museums and/or participation in a service-learning project designed for the whole family. Instead of serving as chaperones, parents and family members were active participants in experiences with their children. Specific, service-learning projects (homelessness, education funding and school closures) capitalized upon and deepened family bonds. Children and their parents learned how they could invest their time and energy to make a difference within their communities. Since 2014, The PLAN (Parent Leaders’ Advisory Network) has conducted monthly, train-the-trainer workshops for over 3,100 family members and distributed more than 4,500 children's books. Under the direction of a Parent Leader Coordinator, these family members became facilitators/leaders of Let’s Read Math workshops. The PLAN is innovative because it is parent-led and designed to help parents/caregivers to identify their assets and develop personal and professional skills. The program, which empowers community residents to become parent/community leaders, provides real opportunities for neighborhood residents to participate in the design and delivery of a literacy and math curricula that is aligned with state standards. Within one school year, at least 500 pregnant and parenting teens and their adult family members, who are primarily from single parent households and similar communities with similar experiences, will be trained and encouraged to join School Advisory Councils, Philadelphia Head Start’s Policy Council and/or organized parent groups. PARENT POWER’s partnership with The EARTHS will simultaneously provide literacy tutors and give functionally illiterate parents an opportunity to become comfortable with basic reading, learn how best to reinforce learning at home, and become better advocates for their children. To help each parent become more comfortable speaking in public, participants will be provided with a free membership to Toastmasters, International public speaking and leadership development course. We reside in an area called “The Forgotten Blocks” because some of our elected officials do not bother to fully serve the constituents who live here. When families become more educated, they become more empowered. Once they become more empowered, they will use their power to demand changes for their families, their schools and their communities. Families will no longer be accepting of the status quo and will have higher expectations for themselves, their children and their elected and appointed officials.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

Our idea is designed to reach a significant number of end-users. Parent-led, train-the-trainer workshops, peer-to-peer mentoring and evidence-based home visits will ensure that participating adults continuously recruit others. Our goal is to meet families where they are as opposed to asking them to travel outside of their neighborhood. Useful and sensible incentives, i.e., pampers, non-perishable food, meals during workshops, tokens, childcare (as needed) and tickets to cultural events will be offered to participants. The more times a person participates, the more opportunities he/she will have to win. Within our community, we have found that "word of mouth" increases participation in our program tremendously (when you are doing good in the neighborhood, most people want to be engaged). Because our program consistently seeks feedback from participants, we will constantly use all input to improve the program and better serve families' needs. By doing so, we improve our chances of greater participation and engagement; thus, re-building the village that cares for the children. Long-term sustainability plans are to continue seeking relevant requests for proposals and obtaining grant funds from foundations, government agencies and private donors. Fund raisers are another way in which we can potentially build financial sustainability. Lastly, by working with neighborhood high schools, many of which are low performing, we will reach more pregnant and parenting teens.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

The Educational Advocates Reaching Today’s Hardworking Students (EARTHS) was formed in 1992, by a small group of adults, who, although raised in North Philadelphia, have become "successful" and returned to their neighborhood to voluntarily serve as positive role models. Its goal has been to address the growing need for poor youth to replace their idle time with positive, productive experiences. In serving the youth, a need to educate their parents, caregivers, and family members was identified. Its mission is to educate students, enlighten families and empower communities. In 2012, Ms. Quibila met Dr. Claire and began conducting Let's Read Math sessions for families with students in her after-school program. In 2013, Ms. Quibila successfully completed an RFP (Request for Proposals) for the PA Department of Education’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) Community Innovation Zone (CIZ) grant on behalf of The EARTHS and PARENT POWER (What Will You Do With Yours?). The Parent Leaders Advisory Network (PLAN) was created from this collaboration to provide low-income families, with birth to 3rd grade children, opportunities to reinforce learning literacy at home and become better education advocates. Between 2014 and 2017, Ms. Quibila managed the use of funding from the CIZ grant to help The PLAN start and add to over 4,500 children’s home libraries. By coordinating schedules of parent volunteers from PARENT POWER and The PLAN, Family Engagement Centers at Blaine Elementary School (ES), T. M. Peirce ES and Dobbins High School were created and staffed. In partnership with the district’s ELECT (Education Leading to Employment and Career Training) Program, The EARTHS and its partner agencies ensured that nearly all of the district’s 200 pregnant and parenting teens received training to help build literacy, math and art skills for themselves and their children. Since 2014, The PLAN has conducted parent-led, Let's Read Math workshops for at least 3,100 low-income, family members of birth through third grade children who live or attend schools located in zip codes 19121, 19132 and 19140. The North Philadelphia Collaboration started in response to the district's proposed plan, released in 2012, to close 37 schools; many of which were in our low-income neighborhood. Members of The North Philadelphia Collaboration came together, once again in 2016, to consider applying for a federal, Promise Zone grant. Our plan is to continue to seek grants and financial opportunities that help us help others. With or without the needed funding, we will continue to serve our community because we know how it feels to be underserved and overlooked.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

Our mentor, Amanda, helped us become more fixated on a small number of pillars upon which our service will be provided. We chose to EDUCATE (using Let’s Read Math, Bright Lights’ Self Awareness and North Philly Project’s Healthy Lifestyles Guidance); COMMUNICATE (using Word of Mouth, Home Visits and Mentoring (peer to peer, parent to teen (and vice-versa) and grandparent to grandchild (and vice-versa)); and ADVOCATE (using Community Walks and Parents ‘R’ Equal Partners workshops). Though small, The EARTHS has been in business for over 20 years providing multiple services to community residents. While “successful” as individuals, many of us made a conscious decision to stay in our neighborhood to serve as positive role models for others. As I often tell people, I could have bought a home anywhere, I chose North Philadelphia. Unfortunately, many of my neighbors do not have a choice to relocate once their child becomes school-aged. As a result, they are forced to send their children to the same failing school that they once attended. Because they were miseducated as children, they have had to overcome feelings of inadequacy, intimidation and fear when speaking with educators, administrators and those in authority. They do not know what they do not know. For example, they are not aware of their rights, roles and responsibilities to be actively engaged in their children’s education or to be civically engaged in the political process. They must be taught. Once they understand the importance of standing in their truth, many begin to find their voice and are no longer silent about things that matter to them and their families. When one takes into consideration the fact that many low-income people suffer from low self-esteem, it becomes obvious that our business model is a viable one. Our business model is focused on neighbors helping neighbors to improve and empower each other by explaining that education is the new wealth, WE must make sure that OUR children get theirs! As previously mentioned, train-the-trainer workshops, evidenced-based home visits, community walks and parent leaders who serve as mentors for others are some of the ways in which the leadership and communication skills will be built for participating members. Parents will choose participating partners and work together as a team to build trust in and depend upon each other’s contributions and expertise. We envision a time when “meeting people where they are” may not be enough. We may need to provide webinars, public service announcements, YouTube videos or Facebook live events to get our messages heard and share the stories of our neighbors and will seek expertise in accomplishing these tasks. Public speaking and leadership development training are key ingredients in building the self-esteem of many of our low-income family and community members. Because Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, it is essential for us to treat low-income families as resources who can make important decisions and take an active part in the well-being of their communities. Philadelphia is also a very political city. As such, there may be reasons why ward leaders, city council people and other elected and appointed officials may not want to see this “sleeping giant” awakened. City officials have created plans to end poverty and improve education for decades yet, many jobs throughout this country are dependent upon a certain number of miseducated, poor, and complacent citizens remaining as such. Nelson Mandela said, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great.” We must be that generation of inner-city residents who chooses to be great for future generations.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

It is very easy for us to use human centered design to build our concept because we are already in the community that we desire to serve. We are their family, friends and neighbors and have known each other for generations. We have watched children become adults who now, have children…and these are the families we have been reaching! Since 2014, The PLAN (Parent Leaders’ Advisory Network) has conducted monthly, train-the-trainer workshops for over 3,100 family members and distributed more than 4,500 children's books. Under the direction of a Parent Leader Coordinator, these family members became facilitators/leaders of Let’s Read Math workshops. The program, which empowers community residents to become parent/community leaders, provides real opportunities for neighborhood residents to participate in the design and delivery of a literacy and math curricula that is aligned with state standards. Within one school year, at least 500 pregnant and parenting teens and their adult family members, who are primarily from single parent households and similar communities with similar experiences, will be trained and encouraged to join School Advisory Councils, Philadelphia Head Start’s Policy Council and/or organized parent groups. PARENT POWER’s partnership with The EARTHS will simultaneously provide literacy tutors and give functionally illiterate parents an opportunity to become comfortable with basic reading, learn how best to reinforce learning at home, and become better advocates for their children. To help each parent become more comfortable speaking in public, participants will be provided with a free membership to Toastmasters, International public speaking and leadership development course. When the district decided to close a significant number of schools within our community, hundreds of parents, family and community members were actively engaged in the conversations and decisions that led to the creation of the North Philadelphia Collaboration’s counter-proposal to the district’s list of recommended school closures. Together, catchment area maps were reviewed, school and census data were examined, and school comparisons were made. The following school year, PARENT POWER hosted monthly Family Nights for parents, family and community members within the targeted zip codes. Each month, there were at least 35 to 40 families participating in Let’s Read Math activities, Beyond the Bake Sale Book Club discussions and/or School Tours. PARENT POWER and The EARTHS partnered to recruit participants and conduct workshops. Quarterly, The EARTHS created experiential learning opportunities for families, including intentional, relationship-building opportunities such as local trips to museums and/or participation in a service-learning project designed for the whole family. Instead of serving as chaperones, parents and family members were active participants in experiences with their children. Specific, service-learning projects (homelessness, education funding and school closures) capitalized upon and deepened family bonds. Children and their parents learned how they could invest their time and energy to make a difference within their communities. We reside in an area called “The Forgotten Blocks” because some of our elected officials do not bother to fully serve the constituents who live here. When families become more educated, they become more empowered. Once they become more empowered, they will use their power to demand changes for their families, their schools and their communities. Families will no longer be accepting of the status quo and will have higher expectations for themselves, their children and their elected and appointed officials.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

As one who was born and raised in North Philadelphia, I created The Parents ‘R’ Equal Partners (PREP) Program in 2009. It is an inclusive, leadership development program that encourages participation from Philadelphia’s most under-represented populations (limited English proficient, males, teens, grandparents, foster families and formerly incarcerated). The PREP Program is designed to "prep"are parents, family and community members to become effective partners in educating youth. Each two-hour, interactive session is professionally created to include small group, individual and whole group discussions. Several members of the North Philadelphia Collaboration attended and benefitted from the PREP workshops, including Ms. Sylvia, the Founder of PARENT POWER. In 2017, The EARTHS, PARENT POWER and The PLAN received a mini-grant to provide Let's Read Math workshops to the district's pregnant and parenting teens attending schools within the targeted area. Ms. Sylvia, who was a teen parent and is now the grandparent of a precocious, 3-year-old and an academically inclined, 16-year-old; questioned the impact of our work if we purposefully included multiple generations within the same family. After having the conversation with the Founder of PARENT POWER and upon seeing this Early Childhood Innovation Prize from OpenIDEO, we scheduled a meeting with the North Philadelphia Collaboration members to get their input and feedback. The North Philadelphia Collaboration decided that this opportunity would help us coordinate services, programs, resources and information and provide our community with exactly what is needed. We are proud to say that one of The PLAN's coordinators (Ms. Allegra) is an Assistant Director of an early childcare center and Mercy provides high-quality, early childcare services as a STAR 4 facility (the highest possible rating). In addition, The North Philadelphia Collaboration is significantly represented by family and community members from within the targeted zip codes. I have a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and served as the director of a STAR 3 Early Childcare Center. I have experiences working at the PA Department of Education, the PA Human Relations Commission, the PA Department of Public Welfare, The School District of Philadelphia and for several community-based agencies, including The EARTHS. I am currently contracted with the PA Department of Education to monitor the practices used by districts in southeast Pennsylvania to ensure compliance with laws protecting homeless students. I am excited about working in the early childhood space because children are like sponges who will absorb anything that adults place in front of them, whether positive or negative. My preference is to provide positive experiences for the members within my community because when I first went to college, my grandfather advised me, "Don't get so smart that you forget what you got smart to do!"

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

Enthusiastically, yes! All partner agencies and individuals affiliated with the North Philadelphia Collaboration are dedicated to ensuring that within the targeted areas of the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers. We have experience (and enjoy) coming together, planning together and working together on behalf of our community.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We could use help in capturing and sharing participants' stories. It is important for us to document the authentic voices of participating teens and their families. We would like to use various technological methods to showcase the experiences of several teen parents, his/her parents, siblings and children. We may want to compare how different families respond to the services, resources and information provided by our respective agencies. It would also be great to capture the experiential, project-based learning activities of the families. Lastly, we may convince the participating adults to document their own stories through journals (video and/or written) and weave the stories together in a testimonial to show how FAR they have come in understanding the importance of positive, learning experiences within their home environments.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

We need mentoring support to keep us up-to-date about additional innovative methods used to complete the work. Family and community engagement is essential to the success of families with young children and we want to be sure that we are using the most effective practices. We also need mentors who can help us determine the best ways to share the experiences of families as they transition from active parent to parent activist.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Quibila A. Divine retired early from the PA State Employees Retirement System after 20 years of combined service at the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and The School District of Philadelphia. She earned an undergraduate degree from Drexel University & two Masters degrees from Lincoln University (graduating summa cum laude both times). She and her husband chose to live in North Philadelphia to be positive role models for youth and their families. www.linkedin.com/in/quibila-a-divine-b8244b9/

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.

[Optional] Video: You are invited to submit a 30-60 second video that introduces you and/or your team and your idea.

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)

Our mentor, Amanda, was extremely helpful in getting us to change our mindset about the many things that we want to see happen within our community. She helped us to focus on three pillars upon which our work is built. We used this feedback to better categorize the work that we are doing. We met as a collaborative group and had open and honest discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of our initial proposal. Additional conversations were held amongst team members (including parent and community members) to hone in on what we plan to do and how we should do it.

Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

Our mentor, Amanda, helped us become more fixated on a small number of pillars upon which our services will be provided. We learned that because we are looking at families from a strength-based lens, we allow families to build on their own strengths as opposed to waiting for someone to come and do something "for them." Amanda also helped us to see that by providing many services within our community, we are able to quickly identify other programs and partners who can assist us in doing the work. Conversations with stakeholders, partners and participating parent leaders led us to streamline our idea into three pillars of work (explained in Business Viability).

Name or Organization

The Educational Advocates Reaching Today's Hardworking Students, Inc. (EARTHS)

Geography

We are in North Philadelphia, targeting families living in the 19121, 19132 and 19140 zip codes.

What is your stage of development?

  • Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD

Type

  • Non - Profit

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

Describe your submission in one clear sentence

Using evidence-based methods to improve academic results for pregnant and parenting teens, The EARTHS will help multi-generational families understand the steps that THEY must take to break the cycle of generational poverty and be successful within our North Philadelphia community.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

We will use evidence-based, Parents-as-Teachers (PAT) home visits to meet teen parents where they are and add a multi-generational, parent-to-parent mentoring program that is focused on providing families with the information, resources and support needed to become more enlightened, empowered and engaged in their children's academic success. This strategy will help grandparents see that although the educational system may have failed their generation; their pregnant and parenting teen-aged children (and their infant-toddler grandchildren) are entitled to better educational opportunities.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Network: Connecting people with each other to enhance the reach or effectiveness of new or existing resources.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

The EARTHS and its partner agencies will help families of teen parents recognize their potential and contributions, rather than view their lives from a deficit model. By conducting parent-led, interactive literacy, math and art workshops for multiple generations within each family and using evidence-based home visits focused on improving parent-child interactions with literacy; we will transition community members into community leaders and build a new kind of family network. Society will begin to see that parents NEED to be part of the solution to many of the ills within urban areas. We have heard the expression, "It takes a village to raise a child," however in many low-income communities, the village is virtually non-existent. By using internal relationships, there will be a re-building of the community's "village” needed to coach teens to academic success. No one has come into this community to save us; so now, we must save ourselves. Participating pregnant and parenting teens will be encouraged to go "FAR" by highly valuing education and themselves, engaging in parent-child literacy sessions, attending school, getting better grades, graduating and/or having fewer behavioral problems than their peers whose families do not participate. This high regard for education will subsequently be passed on to their infants and toddlers, thus improving the chances for their academic success and reducing the likelihood of sustained, generational poverty.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

Contrary to stereotypes and myths about the complacency of urban parents, The EARTHS and its partners will create grass-roots, community-based coalitions of family members who develop a changed mindset about who they are, what their families deserve and how their families should be treated. Using evidence-based methods to improve academic results for their pregnant and parenting teenaged children and young grandchildren will help us break the cycle of generational poverty within our community.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

As a community, we understand that we have three precious years in which to convince a young parent that he/she is the most qualified to be their child’s lead educator. The PLAN will conduct parent-led, interactive, "back and forth" reading, math and art activities for low-income families that include pregnant and parenting teens (with children up to three years old) who live or attend schools located in zip codes 19121, 19132 and 19140. Extensive train-the-trainer workshops will allow these family members to learn the skills needed to facilitate the Let's Read Math curriculum, improve vocabulary, create/build home libraries (each family takes at least one "book of the month" and related materials home) and reinforce parent-child learning at home. Let's Read Math was created by Dr. Claire who decided she was "getting too seasoned," and willingly shared the curriculum with our families to spread the word about her concept and to help families see how much fun they can have learning literacy, math and art. Our program is innovative because it is parent-led and designed to involve grandparents, parents and caregivers in a consistent and intentional manner that will help teen parents and their children progress academically. Using the evidence-based, Parent as Teachers (PAT) model, families will be supported in times of transition; obtain the resources they need to encourage their children’s learning and development; and get reassurance from other families within their community. We are fortunate to collaborate with several community partners who will assist in implementing this idea. Bright Lights representatives will help families build positive and healthy self-esteem by connecting them to their native culture and customs. Partnerships with Mercy Neighborhood Ministries Family Service's Early Learning Center (Mercy) will allow families to experience relationships with high quality, early care programs that are affirming, reciprocal and build upon their strengths. PARENT POWER will help parents, grandparents and adult family members grow in their leadership by using learned skills to recruit others. The North Philadelphia Project will ensure that families have healthy, nutritional and fitness goals of their own and benefit from supportive partners who help them reach and/or revise their goals. The EARTHS will provide the peer-to-peer mentoring and experiential learning opportunities that all parents need to prioritize education and build meaningful parent-child connections that promote a love of reading. At the end of each workshop/activity/interaction, we will listen to participants as they tell us what they need to strengthen their ability to implement what they are learning. We have established secure partnerships with several family-based agencies that focus on ways to break the cycle of poverty. Our individual partners provide our families with tangible resources (Ms. Denise distributes diapers, non-perishable food, clothing and car seats; Mr. Jay offers technology assistance and training; Ms. Toya helps spread the word about the effectiveness of our programs and Ms. LaSkeetia trains other parents using Let's Read Math workshops). Our goal is to show families how FAR they can go by accessing various resources themselves. Ms. Quibila represents PARENT POWER on Philadelphia's READ by 4th (Grade Level Reading Campaign's) Leadership Council by sharing quantitative, program data and offering advice about effectively serving and communicating with vulnerable families. With support from OpenIDEO, we expect that our family participation will double; because given an opportunity, parents will enjoy taking leadership roles within their communities, reading to their infant-toddler children and grandchildren, and engaging with other families. Families will transition from merely participating in our workshops to leading them. An intrinsic understanding of their "parent power" to create innovative, learning experiences for their children and grandchildren will develop and last for generations. Technology will be used to record each session and allow families to participate virtually and/or review later, if needed. Each partner agency is a member of the North Philadelphia Collaboration, a group comprised of dedicated individuals and agencies focused on working with the community to improve the community for the benefit of the community in which we all live and work.

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Low-income, pregnant and parenting teens, their families and their children will primarily benefit from this idea. Teens, whose parents or adult family members participate, will be more likely to attend school regularly, have higher grades, graduate from high school, find/make a productive career, and have fewer behavioral problems than their peers whose parents are not participating. Participating teens will be more likely to travel outside of their neighborhood to attend a museum, cultural activity, library, and/or conference. In addition, the surrounding community will benefit from families' increased desire to hold elected and appointed officials accountable. The real issue that we will address, “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty”, is of interest to every poor family in America. No one wants to be poor and if provided with an opportunity to learn how to reverse their situation, through civic engagement, many adults will take it. The EARTHS have conducted workshops and trainings for low income students and their families for over 20 years. Our approach has been to help society see that low-income parents, family and community members are resources and should be welcomed into their children's schools, part of the decision-making processes and solutions to many of the societal ills that we see in urban areas. We started with providing tutorial sessions for school-aged youth and in serving the youth, saw a real need to include their parents and younger siblings.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

Philadelphia, like many large, impoverished cities, has seen a rise in violence by youth who are getting younger and angrier. Despite society's best attempts to prosecute its way out of this situation, we will only succeed in tackling this problem by thinking systemically. Many have cited parent engagement (or the lack thereof) as the problem, yet few have had the crucial conversations needed to engage family and community members in the process of developing a solution. The root cause of the problem is that the level of expectations that society has for urban teens (and their family members), needs to be raised in homes, in schools, and in the community. Only then, will low-income family and community members see the value of a quality education and its relevance in obtaining and sustaining a high-quality life. By partnering pregnant and parenting teens with older adults who have successfully survived similar community ills, Families Are Resources (FAR) can be replicated within schools, made scalable on a national level, and made available to diverse populations and neighborhoods. We will help families go FAR; by meeting participating teens where they are and providing needed resources to incentivize their engagement and continued academic success. A culture change will begin as multiple generations are motivated to become scholarly and serve as positive role models for their neighbors. The urban "village' will be re-built and embrace its families as resources.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Our idea and all of our work is intentional in serving and impacting low-income children, their families and communities because that is who and what we are. Each agency is in and/or has individuals who live within the low-income areas proposed to be served. The pregnant and parenting teens, their families and their children live in an urban area that has many half-way houses, recovering addicts, and ex-offenders. On any given day, in the targeted zip codes of 19121, 19132, and 19140, 1 out of 4 students is absent from school. On average, 40% of the residents in these zip codes live in poverty. Half of the students are in schools that have not academically performed for two or more years. Unfortunately, too many of these targeted teens know a friend or family member who has been incarcerated, murdered, shot, chronically unemployed, and/or addicted to drugs/alcohol. These teens and their families are victims of generational poverty and as a result, they suffer from a lack of resources (emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, relational, informational, AND financial). The purpose of our idea is to help low-income families see how FAR they can go when they choose to invest their time and energy in themselves, their families and their communities. Since many of us still live in the community in which we serve, our assistance is accepted because our intentions are authentic.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (1500 characters)

Our concept is innovative because it is for us and by us. We are not fooled into thinking that someone is going to come into our community and do for us what we must do for ourselves. Literacy workshops and evidenced-based home visits will be conducted by parents and grandparents who have transitioned from active parents to parent activists. History proves that we are not afraid to meet our neighbors where they are to complete the work. Research (Epstein, Henderson and Mapp) shows that when parents (or concerned adults) are actively engaged in a child's academic life, the child does better. This is despite the race, income, or zip code of the child's family. By providing families with the tools to successfully advocate for a quality education, young children will become more encouraged, coached, and motivated to succeed. The children will be held to higher expectations due to the increased knowledge of their families. In 2012, The School District of Philadelphia announced a plan to close 37 schools (22 of which were elementary schools in Philadelphia’s lowest income neighborhoods in the 19121, 19132 and 19140 zip codes). At that point, it became obvious that the need for an alternative PLAN to educate and galvanize parents and community members around the issue of an equal opportunity at a quality education could help in reducing violence, drop-out rates, poverty and truancy.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

Our idea is designed to reach a significant number of end-users. Parent-led, train-the-trainer workshops, peer-to-peer mentoring and evidence-based home visits will ensure that participating adults continuously recruit others. Our goal is to meet families where they are as opposed to asking them to travel outside of their neighborhood. Useful and sensible incentives, i.e., pampers, non-perishable food, meals during workshops, tokens, childcare (as needed) and tickets to cultural events will be offered to participants. The more times a person participates, the more opportunities he/she will have to win. Within our community, we have found that "word of mouth" increases participation in our program tremendously (when you are doing good in the neighborhood, most people want to be engaged). Because our program consistently seeks feedback from participants, we will constantly use all input to improve the program and better serve families' needs. By doing so, we improve our chances of greater participation and engagement; thus, re-building the village that cares for the children. Long-term sustainability plans are to continue seeking relevant requests for proposals and obtaining grant funds from foundations, government agencies and private donors. Fund raisers are another way in which we can potentially build financial sustainability. Lastly, by working with neighborhood high schools, many of which are low performing, we will reach more pregnant and parenting teens.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

The Educational Advocates Reaching Today’s Hardworking Students (EARTHS) was formed in 1992, by a small group of adults, who, although raised in North Philadelphia, have become "successful" and returned to their neighborhood to voluntarily serve as positive role models. Its goal has been to address the growing need for poor youth to replace their idle time with positive, productive experiences. In serving the youth, a need to educate their parents, caregivers, and family members was identified. Its mission is to educate students, enlighten families and empower communities. In 2012, Ms. Quibila met Dr. Claire and began conducting Let's Read Math sessions for families with students in her after-school program. In 2013, Ms. Quibila successfully completed an RFP (Request for Proposals) for the PA Department of Education’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) Community Innovation Zone (CIZ) grant on behalf of The EARTHS and PARENT POWER (What Will You Do With Yours?). The Parent Leaders Advisory Network (PLAN) was created from this collaboration to provide low-income families, with birth to 3rd grade children, opportunities to reinforce learning literacy at home and become better education advocates. Between 2014 and 2017, Ms. Quibila managed the use of funding from the CIZ grant to help The PLAN start and add to over 4,500 children’s home libraries. By coordinating schedules of parent volunteers from PARENT POWER and The PLAN, Family Engagement Centers at Blaine Elementary School (ES), T. M. Peirce ES and Dobbins High School were created and staffed. In partnership with the district’s ELECT (Education Leading to Employment and Career Training) Program, The EARTHS and its partner agencies ensured that nearly all the district’s 200 pregnant and parenting teens received training to help build literacy, math and art skills for themselves and their children. Since 2014, The PLAN has conducted parent-led, Let's Read Math workshops for at least 3,100 low-income, family members of birth through third grade children who live or attend schools located in zip codes 19121, 19132 and 19140. The North Philadelphia Collaboration started in response to the district's proposed plan, released in 2012, to close 37 schools; many of which were in our low-income neighborhood. Members of The North Philadelphia Collaboration came together, once again in 2016, to consider applying for a federal, Promise Zone grant. Our plan is to continue to seek grants and financial opportunities that help us help others. With or without the needed funding, we will continue to serve our community because we know how it feels to be underserved and overlooked.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (1500 characters)

Our business model is focused on neighbors helping neighbors to improve and empower each other by explaining that education is the new wealth, WE must make sure that OUR children get theirs! Parents will choose participating partners and work together as a team to build trust in and depend upon each other’s contributions and expertise. We envision a time when “meeting people where they are” may not be enough. We may need to provide webinars, public service announcements, YouTube videos or Facebook live events to get our messages heard and share the stories of our neighbors and will seek expertise in accomplishing these tasks. Public speaking and leadership development training are key ingredients in building the self-esteem of many of our low-income family and community members. Because Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, it is essential for us to treat low-income families as resources who can make important decisions and take an active part in the well-being of their communities. Philadelphia is also a very political city. As such, there may be reasons why ward leaders, city council people and other elected and appointed officials may not want to see this “sleeping giant” awakened. City officials have created plans to end poverty and improve education for decades yet, many jobs throughout this country are dependent upon a certain number of miseducated, poor, and complacent citizens remaining as such.

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (1500 characters)

It is very easy for us to use human centered design to build our concept because we are already in the community that we desire to serve. We are their family, friends and neighbors and have known each other for generations. We have watched children become adults who now, have children…and these are the families we have been reaching! Since 2014, The PLAN (Parent Leaders’ Advisory Network) has conducted monthly, train-the-trainer workshops for over 3,100 family members and distributed more than 4,500 children's books. The program, which empowers community residents to become parent/community leaders, provides real opportunities for neighborhood residents to participate in the design and delivery of a literacy and math curricula that is aligned with state standards. Within one school year, at least 500 pregnant and parenting teens and their adult family members, who are primarily from single parent households and similar communities with similar experiences, will be trained and encouraged to join School Advisory Councils, Philadelphia Head Start’s Policy Council and/or organized parent groups. We reside in an area called “The Forgotten Blocks” because some of our elected officials do not bother to fully serve the constituents who live here. When families become more educated, they become more empowered. Once they become more empowered, they will use their power to demand changes for their families, their schools and their communities.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

As one who was born and raised in North Philadelphia, I created The Parents ‘R’ Equal Partners (PREP) Program in 2009. It is an inclusive, leadership development program that encourages participation from Philadelphia’s most under-represented populations (limited English proficient, males, teens, grandparents, foster families and formerly incarcerated). The PREP Program is designed to "prep"are parents, family and community members to become effective partners in educating youth. Each two-hour, interactive session is professionally created to include small group, individual and whole group discussions. Several members of the North Philadelphia Collaboration attended and benefitted from the PREP workshops, including Ms. Sylvia, the Founder of PARENT POWER. In 2017, The EARTHS, PARENT POWER and The PLAN received a mini-grant to provide Let's Read Math workshops to the district's pregnant and parenting teens attending schools within the targeted area. Ms. Sylvia, who was a teen parent and is now the grandparent of a precocious, 3-year-old and an academically inclined, 16-year-old; questioned the impact of our work if we purposefully included multiple generations within the same family. After having the conversation with the Founder of PARENT POWER and upon seeing this Early Childhood Innovation Prize from OpenIDEO, we scheduled a meeting with the North Philadelphia Collaboration members to get their input and feedback. The North Philadelphia Collaboration decided that this opportunity would help us coordinate services, programs, resources and information and provide our community with exactly what is needed. We are proud to say that one of The PLAN's coordinators (Ms. Allegra) is an Assistant Director of an early childcare center and Mercy provides high-quality, early childcare services as a STAR 4 facility (the highest possible rating). In addition, The North Philadelphia Collaboration is significantly represented by family and community members from within the targeted zip codes. I have a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and served as the director of a STAR 3 Early Childcare Center. I have experiences working at the PA Department of Education, the PA Human Relations Commission, the PA Department of Public Welfare, The School District of Philadelphia and for several community-based agencies, including The EARTHS. I am currently contracted with the PA Department of Education to monitor the practices used by districts in southeast Pennsylvania to ensure compliance with laws protecting homeless students. I am excited about working in the early childhood space because children are like sponges who will absorb anything that adults place in front of them, whether positive or negative. My preference is to provide positive experiences for the members within my community because when I first went to college, my grandfather advised me, "Don't get so smart that you forget what you got smart to do!"

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (500 characters)

Enthusiastically, yes! All partner agencies and individuals affiliated with the North Philadelphia Collaboration are dedicated to ensuring that within the targeted areas of the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers. We have experience (and enjoy) coming together, planning together and working together on behalf of our community.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

We could use help in capturing and sharing participants' stories. It is important for us to document the authentic voices of participating teens and their families. We would like to use various technological methods to showcase the experiences of several teen parents, his/her parents, siblings and children. We may want to compare how different families respond to the services, resources and information provided by our respective agencies. It would also be great to capture the experiential, project-based learning activities of the families. Lastly, we may convince the participating adults to document their own stories through journals (video and/or written) and weave the stories together in a testimonial to show how FAR they have come in understanding the importance of positive, learning experiences within their home environments.

Would you like mentoring support? [Relevant only for Early Submission Deadline]

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters) [Relevant only for Early Submission Deadline]

N/A for this stage.

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? [Relevant only for our early submission participants] (1500 characters)

Our mentor, Amanda, was extremely helpful in getting us to change our mindset about the many things that we want to see happen within our community. She helped us to focus on three pillars upon which our work is built. We used this feedback to better categorize the work that we are doing. We met as a collaborative group and had open and honest discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of our initial proposal. Additional conversations were held amongst team members to hone in on what we plan to do and how we should do it. We incorporated a few comments from other IDEO grant seekers and added one person who commented as part of our "team."

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

Quibila A. Divine retired early from the PA State Employees Retirement System after 20 years of combined service at the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and The School District of Philadelphia. She earned an undergraduate degree from Drexel University & two Masters degrees from Lincoln University (graduating summa cum laude both times). She and her husband chose to live in North Philadelphia to be positive role models for youth and their families. www.linkedin.com/in/quibila-a-divine-b8244b9/

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you prototyped.

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Greetings! Thanks, I am interested in hearing more about ways we can collaborate and will review the submission from Words to Grow On, LLC. Let's discuss after the new year. Thanks for connecting...looking forward!