Stronger Families, Stronger Schools


Side by Side is a faith-based nonprofit organization that works to strengthen Prince George’s County elementary schools in Laurel, Md. It offers the following free programs.

Great Start

The Great Start program is a series of workshop evenings in English and Spanish at six schools for pre-kindergarten to second-grade parents. The parents find out what their children are expected to learn in the current year, and are given home activities to help in that learning. Topics include behavior, reading and math. The evenings include a meal for the entire family and children’s activities.

The partner schools are Bond Mill, Deerfield Run, James Harrison, Laurel, Montpelier and Scotchtown Hills.

See our 2014-2015 workshop schedule.

Also, learn about the success of the Great Start program last year – and view the Great Start video at right.

Homework Club

Side by Side hosts an after-school homework club at Laurel Elementary School for selected students. The children attend for three hours each Monday, enjoying a snack, receiving help on their homework from retired teachers and other adult volunteers, and participating in reading and enrichment activities.

Hispanic outreach

Side by Side has worked with a group of parents at Laurel Elementary School, Padres Unidos por Un Futuro Mejor para Nuestros Hijos, to create a Hispanic parents guide for that and other schools in Prince George’s County. The guide was distributed to Laurel Elementary families in fall 2013.


Monica’s story

Monica moved to the U.S. at the age of 21 from her native Guatemala. Her mother had immigrated years before after leaving Monica with a relative. Monica attended a high school in New Jersey to learn English and then a community college to become a medical lab technician. She married Jorge, and they had a daughter, Angie. In September 2012, Jorge was killed in a car crash. A year later, Monica and Angie moved to Laurel, still grieving Jorge’s death and seeking a new start. Monica began attending Side by Side’s Great Start program.

‘It’s really tough in my childhood when, for every single thing, I was hit or called stupid. I always wanted to raise my child a different way. But ever since (Jorge died), I was stressed and upset. When the baby would do something, I would get angry and start yelling. In the morning, it was so hard for me to wake Angie up. She was crying and whining. Ms. Brecht gave me a timer, and said to set it up and let her wake up by herself. It works. My daughter’s been doing better ever since.

Also, Angie was saying, ‘Oh, I want my daddy.’ She knew that whenever she called her daddy, I would let her do whatever she wanted. I would start crying with her. Since the program, I said one day, ‘Okay, you want your daddy, call him and tell him to come here.’ I got strong, and I didn’t let her do whatever she wanted. And she stopped doing that. The program has really helped me.”