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Teacher Shifts Focus From Kids to Parents

When Francia Hines taught elementary school in the Pasadena Unified School District, she didn’t know where to send parents who came to her needing language help or parenting advice.

Now she knows. They should go see Hines, the first director of the newly opened Jefferson Parent Resource Center in Pasadena.

The center operates on the back lot of Jefferson Elementary, 1500 E. Villa St., out of a single 30-foot-square room that, on the outside, resembles a barracks.

Open to all district families, the center has plans for parenting and English courses, tours of Pasadena and local libraries, family outings and support groups. Counselors will also help parents fill out job applications, find child care and locate legal or medical services.

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“What makes the center different is that everything is under one umbrella, and it’s on the school site,” Hines said. “We don’t know of anything in the county like it. There is information about immunizations, jobs, home delivery of meals to seniors, whom do I contact about a problem in my neighborhood, where do I find a local scouting program. All those things can take place here.”

For most organized activities, the center will offer child care and transportation, Hines added.

An English class at the center is already benefiting Hasmik Martirosyan, an Armenian immigrant with a 6-year-old daughter. “The class helps me know about American holidays and ask my children about this,” she said. “I help my child learn about (her) lesson.”

Hines’ salary and other costs are paid for by the Pasadena Junior League, a local service organization that has pledged $140,000 for the project over three years. The district has provided child care, transportation, equipment and secretarial help. Junior League volunteers, as well as Pasadena Community College faculty, will dispense many services.

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The district plans to begin two more parent centers, but “because of budget cutbacks, there is some question about whether the second site will be open for next year,” said Elizabeth Gilfillan, Junior League project chairwoman.

The center was an outgrowth of the district’s 3-year-old K4 program, intended to assist families of 4-year-olds judged to be “at-risk” because of poverty or other reasons. The privately supported project, staffed by teachers, includes children’s activities, parenting classes and home visits.

“Parents were feeling a need to continue to be involved and looked for more training and guidance,” Gilfillan said.

The K4 program serves 570 children. An additional 1,200 disadvantaged preschoolers get help from other agencies, such as Head Start, said Suzi Hoge, K4 resource teacher.

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Adding up those numbers, almost 1,800 new district students a year belong to families who could benefit from the parent resource center.

“The problem is getting them in” the first time, Hines said. “As soon as they find out it’s here and available, there will be lines around the block.”


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