State lawmaker Angelo Puppolo smiles on Talk/Read/Succeed!
The Talk/Read/Succeed! community came together recently at Springfield Housing Authority’s Sullivan Apartments to explain the housing-based early literacy program to state Rep. Angelo Puppolo, and to seek guidance on the potential for new funding sources.
The meeting was a success by all measures.
Puppolo heard from SHA Executive Director William H. Abrashkin, Sally C. Fuller of the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, Maura Geary and David Cruise of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Lori Chaves and Nicole Blais of Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start, Kathy Moss of Behavioral Health Network, and Tanisha Harris, a resident at Robinson Gardens Apartments. Sean Cahillane of SHA also spoke of the success of T/R/S! and the need for new funding sources for sustainability and growth.
Puppolo said he is impressed with what T/R/S! has accomplished.
“This is a great inner-city program that helps children and families,” Puppolo said after the hour-long meeting held at one of the participating sites.
“It works. The case can be made that this is a one-of-a-kind program that is succeeding,” he added.
In its fifth year, T/R/S! is run by a broad-based coalition of some two dozen agencies and groups, including SHA, Davis, REB, BHN, the Springfield School Department, the Hasbro Summer Learning Institute, the Springfield Education Association, and the Massachusetts Education Association. The program unites two SHA family developments – Robinson Gardens and Sullivan – with their corresponding neighborhood elementary schools – Dorman and Boland.
T/R/S! has frequently been compared to the Harlem Children’s Project, which is considerably larger, encompassing a 100-block area in Central Harlem and reaching some 12,000 children. T/R/S! reaches 150 families and about 300 children.
Literacy-based programs are run at schools as well as housing developments. T/R/S! unites programs around four themes: parent engagement, parenting education, child education and family self-sufficiency.
Families who have taken advantage of frequent programs, especially the outdoor-based summer learning program, have children whose reading skills have become strong, in some cases by wide margins.
At the session with Puppolo, participants spoke of the all-around benefits to T/R/S! families, and how they would like to expand the program to other developments and schools in the city.
“If it takes a village, it certainly takes a community to make a program like this work,” said Abrashkin. “T/R/S! is your wraparound service, your full-court press. It gives children everything they need to eventually break out of poverty.”
“Everything we are trying to do is aimed at opening up opportunities for training, for jobs, and for good and productive lives,” he added.
Fuller noted that the program began in 2009 with a three-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, but that was not renewed. Since then, T/R/S! has relied on in-kind staffing and services given by participating agencies, and third-party billing among agencies such as Behavioral Health Network, which provides individual counseling along with family programs aimed at encouraging literacy-building activities at home.
“The challenge for a program like this is operating support – funders don’t always like to give this,” Fuller noted.
Despite those challenges, Geary said, those involved at participating organizations have continued to believe in T/R/S! and to work together to ensure that families stay connected, and succeed. Ultimately, the program is aimed at fostering independence and self-sufficiency.
Cruise said he loves the natural connection between school and home that is the hallmark of T/R/S! He believes the program is a perfect fit to expand to all housing developments and their neighborhood schools.
“There are so many opportunities to connect where children live, and where they go to school,” Cruise said. “These kids aren’t just SHA kids. They belong to the public school system.”
The meeting featured a brainstorming session on finding new sources of funding, possibly at the state level.
Copyright © 2013 Springfield Housing Authority. All Rights Reserved.