This interactive program, with curriculum provided by Iowa State University Extension, is designed to address critical issues facing children and their families. Some topics included are peer pressure, problem-solving, tools for families to grow stronger and positive family communication. Some funding for the program is provided by a grant received from Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CFAR); additional funding and volunteers to assist in carrying out the program come from local and area businesses, organizations and individuals.
Program facilitator is Dorene Ehlers.
Each week a different topic will be focused on. Upon arrival, the parents and the students will go their separate ways and then come together again for sharing and activities.
"The goal is to get them interacting with each other and enjoy their relationship," Ehlers said. She added that statistically, 40 percent of the youth who go through this program have a decrease in behavioral problems, due to the strong message that each of the sessions presents.
The curriculum, she stressed, is all researched based.
This is the perfect age to reach these students. At this age, the kids start to become more independent and there is also more peer pressure at this age. The more open communication and mutual respect the kids can have with their parents, leads to more healthy decisions.
Each week, a family participating in the program will be highlighted and speak of what they learned.
The first week - Love and Limits - gave parents the chance to identified stresses and problems in youth, got them thinking about the qualities they want in their youth and taught them how to learn to support youth goals and dreams
The youth were encouraged to think about and visualize goals and dreams for the future and discussed bridges and barriers towards reaching future goals and dreams.
This week features the Sutton family. Shannon is the mom, Zackery is the youth, and Hailey is in the Character Critters program for the younger siblings.
"We really enjoyed the first week of Strengthening Families," said Shannon. "It is good for us as parents to be able share with other families that we may not normally get to talk to. It's a great time to also reflect on topics that are being discussed and scenarios within our own families. We, as parents, handle situations differently, so with it being such a fast-paced society these days, it is nice to have an evening of ideas and ways to improve or approach your child with the stresses that will come in the years ahead."
She concluded, "I really enjoyed seeing what kind of dreams and goals Zackery had and he was proud to share them with me. He also enjoyed seeing how well he knew his mom and how well that I knew him! Zackery and I are looking forward to the sessions ahead."