In it's second year, the KFC-Kids Program is designed to solve problems facing at-risk students in a realistic and timely way.
Local agencies and institutions partnering 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.
By IVY HERRON
The "community spirit" of small town living is alive and well in Brazil, according to Julie Romas, and it has become the backbone of one of the most innovative programs in education.
As director of the Kids, Families, and Community-Kids Program, Romas says the program is all about getting kids, families and community working together for educational success.
"Today, within the system of modern education, we are teaching an education model that no longer exists. Somewhere between 'Ozzie and Harriet' and now, things have changed," Romas said at a recent Brazil Rotary Club meeting.
Romas says the emotional, mental, social and physical needs of our children have changed in the last 20 years.
"The challenges that lay between a child coming to school and then actually being able to sit down at the table to learn have quadrupled. The students of today face problems like we never imagined before," she said. "Our primary question at KFC, simply put, is: 'What's keeping the child from being successful?' A teacher sees a need and calls me. We then work together to identify the problem and set out to fix it."
The answer is finding solutions for the wide range of problems at-risk children face every day.
"Is the child not getting enough to eat? Does the mother and father argue so much that the child can't study, can't concentrate -- or is (the problem) that the child has no support at home. Is the child emotionally troubled and the parent cannot afford help -- or is it that the child is surrounded by a lot of violence at home and lives a life of constant fear and chaos?" she said. "What ever the problem is, 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. KFC is strength based, which means we look closely at what the child does well and build on those strengths while helping them achieve. The attitude is, we are all in this thing together."
One of the largest partners in the program is Hamilton Center, which is the main starting point for many of the at-risk students, and their families, according to Romas. The Hamilton Center provides counseling, mentoring and case management services for families helped by the KFC Program
"For so many students needing our help, counseling is the first step," she said. "Hamilton Center is a crucial partner in this program."
The program works with the family, to look at the problem together and create a partnership for success. KFC aims to help parents or guardians to take responsibility for making changes in their lives with the help of the school and community.
"The problems are always serious, complicated and not easy to solve, that's why it takes all of us working as partners," Romas said. "Just imagine the potential of a program that empowers a child with total support from the community, the school and from the family -- the child can't lose."
At present the program is available at each of the Title 1 schools in the Clay Community School Corporation, but plans of ultimately meeting the needs of all students in the corporation are on the horizon.
"All students' needs have changed drastically and I know I sound like a broken record, but it is unrealistic to believe academic achievement has any chance to really grow unless we change how we reach out to students," Romas said. "It has been proven to me that KFC is that chance for student success because of the community and the people in it willing to reach out to these children in need."