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Empowered mother helps her children succeed

16th January, 2018

Marie moved from Haiti to the U.S. with her children in 2011. Her husband stayed in Haiti to continue working.

“Life was very difficult for me because I had so much trouble communicating," she said. She had to ask friends and family members to come along during doctor's appointments, because she couldn't explain her condition or ask questions about her health.

“I felt a loss of privacy because I always needed a translator to communicate important—and sometimes personal—information," she said. “Even for everyday simple things, I couldn't communicate."

That included making shopping lists and navigating the grocery store aisles. Her children translated the cashiers and she relied on them to complete the self-checkout for her.

“It hurt," she said. She had brought her children to the U.S. so that they could get a better education and foundation for success—but she couldn't communicate with her children's teachers. Her children had to translate her questions and concerns—even the things she did not want them to hear.

“I wanted to talk directly to their teachers myself about ways to help them do better in school but I was no longer in charge," she said. “It was like I was the child and my children became the parents."

Marie knew she had to go to school to learn English, but she did not have anyone to care for her youngest daughter Laurie. One day, a neighbor told Marie about the English classes she was taking nearby. She said they also had a child education program at the school.

“This was my miracle and I felt overwhelmed with joy when I discovered that my daughter Laurie and I could attend classes together."

Marie and Laurie enrolled in Broward County Public Schools Community School South's Family Literacy Program. Here, Marie could study and practice her English skills with support from her teachers during Parent Time. She also learned how to help Laurie prepare for school during Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time® classes, which equips parents with parenting tools to help their children succeed academically.

Laurie was very shy before she started NCFL's family literacy program. She spoke very little Haitian Creole or English. She knew how to say, “Good morning" and “Thank you." As Laurie and Marie participated in the family literacy program, however, Laurie learned many more words and phrases and started reading at just three years old.

“The family literacy program helped her grow into a sociable and independent little girl," Marie said. “She is reading fluently in kindergarten and has the potential to become a gifted student."

Marie's two other children also participated in the family literacy program's educational activities, such as measurement and ice-cream making, money management, and mock grocery shopping. The program also hosts a Family Fun Day, which includes health activities, interesting science experiments, and exciting field trips.

“Every activity we do is an opportunity for us to learn new things together and practice our academic skills," Marie said.

With help from all her teachers, Marie has improved her language and social skills and she has the confidence to communicate with her children's teachers.

“I'm not afraid to speak to anyone face-to-face or on the phone," she said. “I have successfully completed ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes and I am currently taking GED® classes at my school, Community School South, and I can grocery shop on my own."

The program has also given Marie the opportunity to meet other parents, with whom she shares information, seeks advice, and learns from. She said those she's met in her family literacy program are more than friends—they've become family.

Marie and her children have helped plan and organize many different community projects, including singing carols to the elderly at a nursing home during the holidays; collecting and donating supplies for Haitian families after Hurricane Matthew; and sorting and distributing books to children in their community.

Her goal is to become a teacher, so she can help even more in the community.

“I want to share my knowledge with others."