By Kara Blomquist
Valentine’s Day came early to South Waco Elementary.
The Parent Resource Center at South Waco hosted a Valentine’s event Monday. Students and their families decorated sugar cookies and made valentines out of paper.
Campus Kitchen at Baylor baked the cookies and took them to the school.
Members of Pi Beta Phi volunteered at the event. They helped the children decorate their cookies and make their valentines.
Priyanka Rajaratnam, Americorps VISTA member assigned to the PRC at South Waco Elementary, said the Valentine’s activity was to get the parents to the school and involved with the kids. Americorps VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) are employed by the government and focus on fighting poverty.
“It’s just a fun event for them to all do together,” Rajaratnam said.
Mary Katherine Leslie-Van Hook, project coordinator and office manager in Baylor’s Office of Community Engagement and Service, said the activity provided a safe place for parents to spend time with their children.
“That will be just a fun celebration and give the families a free place to be, a safe place, for them and their children to spend an evening together,” she said. “We just get to celebrate Valentine’s Day together.”
More than just a fun time, this event gave parents a different reason to come to campus, said Hannah Kuhl, coordinator for Every Day, Ready to Learn. Every Day, Ready to Learn is the grant that helps fund the Parent Resource Centers in Waco ISD.
“Sometimes our parents only come to the school for referrals or discipline things, so we want to give them a positive experience to get to come to the school,” Kuhl said.
The Parent Resource Center at South Waco Elementary is part of a pilot program that began in the fall of 2012. Three elementary schools in Waco ISD have Parent Resources Centers: Crestview Elementary, J.H. Hines Elementary and South Waco Elementary.
Kuhl said the purpose of the resource centers is to help parents get their children to school.
“Basically our goal is to raise attendance in the elementary schools through a lot of different things,” she said.
Rajaratnam said the objective of the program focused on more than just attendance.
“It’s really kind of like a holistic goal in order to help these parents just make better lives for themselves and to be more self sufficient,” she said.
Beyond family fun nights, like the Valentine’s event, the Parent Resource Center offers weekly workshops that cover topics such as job readiness, child support and budgeting.
A lot of community services are available, but parents may not be familiar with them, Kuhl said.
“I see us as kind of a bridge between the community and the school,” she said.