Side by Side began Great Start as a pilot in fall 2011 to equip kindergarten and pre-kindergarten parents with ways to help their children succeed in school, and promotes their engagement with teachers and other parents. Since then we have continued to expand and increase our program’s reach and effectiveness.

In the 2017-2018 school year, we have reached 1,339 parents and children at our workshops for parents of pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade students. Over the past six years, kindergarten students whose parents attended at least half of the eight workshops have progressed 13% further on the DRA reading comprehension test than students whose parents came to fewer or no workshops.

Here’s what some of our parents have to say about the program:

Parent Maxine Burroughs: “When I saw the curriculum, I said, ‘I could teach that class; I’m a social worker.’ But when I came, I really learned a lot. I like the games – how to teach my daughter how to read, how to write and how to do math. I love the 1,2,3 (behavior system). It works.”

Parent Hilda Kawesa: “We have Joel, who is in kindergarten. He’s always been a little slower. Now he’s picking up from the things we’ve learned from the program. Joel is blossoming.”

Parent Natasha Curtis: “The classes are helping me with my son’s reading and math.  He was doing 40’s on his spelling tests and now he is getting 100’s.”

Parent Saratu Fadlu-Dean: “I love it. It has given me a lot of alternatives and different ways to work with my son. I have referred it to my co-workers, my mom, my sister and everybody.”

Parent Lori Albright: “My son has been having trouble with letters and sounds. Putting sand on a cookie sheet and making letters with your finger is a great way to engage. We would not have known that without this program.”

Parent Vu Nguyen: “The discipline part I found extremely helpful. We have used it with our middle kid; he’s somewhat incorrigible sometimes. It helps him a lot; I can see the vast improvement.”

Parent Lisa Albury: “This is something that I think should be almost mandatory for parents. This is the foundation. If we don’t give our kids the foundation at this point, and we don’t have the teacher skills and the patience in terms of discipline, then we really can’t help them move forward.”

Teacher Selena Fizer: “I really appreciated the chance to get to know some of my parents in a one-on-one basis and how they work with their students. We had sessions where we brought the students in at the end and the parents got to do math and reading games with them.  We could see the parents struggling and needing help, and that was our chance to go in and model how those parents could work these activities with their students.”

Teacher Lisa Hawkins: “We had parents of one of my students come into our session and the little girl was getting upset separating from Mom and Dad coming into the classroom.  We talked about start behaviors and showed them how to set up a behavior chart.  After a week of using the behavior chart, the child no longer had any separation coming in. Every morning now she comes in with a beautiful smile.”

Teacher Erin Brecht: “The parents are using developmentally appropriate practices at home that they learn here, and are coming back the following week to say that they tried this and are excited that it worked.  Parents often don’t know much outside of worksheets, and this gives them fun and appropriate ways to teach their kids.”

Principal Tracie Prevost: “We have a lot of Latino parents with language barriers, and the program really helped them to know what we’ve all about. We have more Spanish-speaking parents on PTO; they’re coming in to volunteer.”

Former Prince George’s County Public Schools Associate Superintendent Andrew Zuckerman: “Side by Side is an excellent organization doing great work for the community of Laurel.”

Prince George’s County Councilwoman Mary Lehman: Side by Side’s reputation is just unsurpassed among nonprofits and educational groups doing great things for kids in the Laurel area. I would love to see it expand throughout my council district, which includes Beltsville, North College Park and Adelphi, and, frankly, throughout the county.”

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