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Dorcas Graduates First Crop of Students in Family Learning Program

The first 25 participants in a family learning program at Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island celebrated their joint accomplishments in the classroom, home and community in a graduation ceremony June 12.

Children of graduating families, including Elian Mateo (center, in suit) open the ceremony by singing “This Land is Your Land” to their parents and Toyota Family Learning program teachers and administrators.
Children of graduating families, including Elian Mateo (center, in suit) open the ceremony by singing “This Land is Your Land” to their parents and Toyota Family Learning program teachers and administrators.

The first 25 participants in a family learning program at Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island celebrated their joint accomplishments in the classroom, home and community in a graduation ceremony June 12.

“In the face of real obstacles in the education landscape, these local graduates exemplify an emerging constant – families learning together is a major key to success,” said Julie Piccolo, Director of Family Literacy at the Dorcas International Institute.  “The graduates should be proud of their accomplishments during the last 24 weeks.”

The Dorcas International Institute launched the program with a Toyota Family Learning grant, awarded by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) and Toyota, for innovation in engaging families in learning.  The three-year, $175,000 grant is a part of Toyota Family Learning’s pioneering movement to bridge the gap between the classroom and lifelong learning.  Toyota Family Learning focuses on parents and children learning alongside each other, from other families and by serving their communities through instruction, service learning, mentoring and technology use.

Graduates received a Family Time Kit, a hands-on way to bring to life the interactive tools at Toyota Family Learning’s FamilyTimeMachine.com.  In October 2013, as a part of Toyota Family Learning, NCFL conducted a survey and found that more than half of parents wish they knew how to make better use of the time they have with their children.  To address that need, NCFL created the new site, a resource for graduates to encourage ongoing growth, and made it available to families nationwide for learning through activities online, offline and on the go.

Over the course of the program, graduating families set goals and made progress toward them by completing service learning activities together, engaging in college and career readiness activities, using technology for educational purposes and mentoring other families to do the same.

“I feel very blessed for being able to be one of the pioneers of the project, which has shown me that it is never too late to learn new things,” said Leidy Almonte, a new Toyota Family Learning graduate. 

Carmen Cabrera, another graduate, added:  “Thanks to this program … I can show to my grandson that no matter what the age, you can achieve your goals and be a successful person.”

Graduation requirements of Toyota Family Learning include:

  • Regular attendance in Parent Time and Parent and Child Together (PACT) time:  Participants engaged in guided learning with a focus on leadership.  During PACT Time, families learned together while engaging in activities including mentoring and service learning, using technology together, reading together and taking family trips.
  • Service learning activities:  Reflecting Toyota Family Learning’s guiding philosophy, which is rooted in community, families participated in at least three service projects.
  • Family-to-family mentoring:  Building community networks is integral to maintaining learning success post-graduation, and the mentoring element teaches families how to share learnings among one another during the program and beyond.

The community grants are just one facet of Toyota Family Learning – a six-year, nationwide initiative that also offers an online learning community and mobile learning adventures for families.  Toyota Family Learning is the most recent initiative made possible by the 23-year partnership between NCFL and Toyota, which emphasizes an intergenerational solution to educational challenges.  Together, NCFL and Toyota have helped more than one million families around the country make significant progress in school, in their homes and in their communities.

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