Do you know what makes the new KFC-Kids program in Clay County so special? Here's a hint: It has nothing to do with chicken.
This is all about kids, families and community working together for educational success.
"By far, this is the most innovative thing in education, and best of all, it works," Program Coordinator Julie Romas said. "It won't matter how terrific the classroom message is for at-risk students facing problems. The problems disable their learning potential, crippling a student's chance for success. (KFC) is a whole different approach to interventions for at-risk children in our schools."
Romas has assisted 45 families since the program's implementation in January.
"It took a little while to create the groundwork for this program. There was nothing like it before," she said.
Romas, Director of Special Education Services Rhonda Lawrence and Hamilton Center Director Kathy O'Campo presented the program design at the Statewide Systems of Care Conference at Indianapolis' Adam's Mark Hotel, in April.
"It is really amazing how everything is coming together," Romas said. "This is a grassroots project that we should be proud of. Outside of Indianapolis, Clay County is the only school corporation in the state with the motivation and skilled professionals to initiate a Full Purpose Partnership Schools Program such as KFC."
Every level of education is affected by budget cuts while the state continues to demand higher standards and increases in graduation rates for at-risk students. But, the programs needed to help at-risk students are usually the first ones to face major budget and staff reductions.
The Kids, Families and Community for Kids (KFC-Kids) program is designed to pick up when and where these cuts occur.
During its pilot year, the program was implemented at East Side, Forest Park and Meridian elementary schools in the Clay Community School Corp., but Romas hopes to quickly spread the program into schools throughout the corporation by the end of the 2007 school year.
"It has been proven. We can't address the vast array of barriers that keep students from academic success completely by ourselves. The students of today face problems like we never imagined before," she said. "By attacking these problems head-on with reality-based solutions, this program takes the idea of 'it takes a village' to a whole new level."
Reality based decisions equal simple, but effective, solutions, Romas said.
For example: If a child needs medical help, the program finds a doctor.
The program works with educators and school nurses to find a way to meet the needs of students by using community agencies and institutions available for consultation.
"Our primary question, simply put, is: 'What's keeping the student from being successful?' A teacher sees a need and calls me. We then work together to identify the problem and then set out to fix it," she said. "KFC works with the entire family to find resources within our community to solve the problems they are facing in a way where negativity does not enter the picture. The attitude is, we are all in this thing together."
The Hamilton Center is the main starting point for many of the at-risk students, and their families, helped by the KFC-Kids Program, according to Romas.
"For so many students needing our help, counseling is the first step," she said. "Hamilton Center is a crucial partner in this program. Working with the student and the family, we create a partnership for success."
During the 2006/07 school year, the Hamilton Center will provide a full-time case manager at each Title One school to better assist and help educators understand and utilize the services available through the KFC-Kids Program.
"If everyone works together (community, families and teachers) our students can only win," Romas said. "We are succeeding by working together. We are growing."
The new community based KFC-Kids Program is designed to solve problems facing students in a realistic and timely way.
Outside of Indianapolis, Clay County is the only school corporation in the state with a program like the KFC-Kids Program.
Local agencies and institutions available for consultation and partnership with KFC-Kids program are: Hamilton Center, Step-Ahead Executive Council, Clay County Benevolence Ministry, Community Alliance & Services for Young Children, Council On Domestic Abuse, Well Child Clinic, Western Indiana Employment & Training Services, First Steps, Step-Ahead, Juvenile Probation Department, Adult Education, Literacy Program, Head Start/Clay Children's Center, LEAAP Center, Title One, Brazil Housing Authority, Division of Children's Services/Department of Family Resources, Red Cross, Energy Assistance, C.H.A.N.C.E.S. For Youth, Healthy Families of Indiana, Legal Services Organization, Clay County Wrap-Around Program, Choices, Indiana Parent Information Network, YMCA, Cumberland Academy and the Even Start Family Literacy Program.