FORT WORTH—With flowers in hand, students at W.J. Turner Elementary School in Fort Worth assembled in the school's auditorium last week to witness an extraordinary sight—their parents' graduation.
Seventeen parents took the stage to receive their diplomas for completing 13 weeks of classes based around the curriculum Raising Highly Capable Kids (RHCK), which teaches parents skills for raising their children.
In 2013, Pastor Rafael Berlanga, from Primera Baptist Church in Fort Worth, introduced the program for the first time to Manuel Jara Elementary School, located just two miles away from Turner Elementary.
Three years later, the program has expanded significantly. Since last spring, 45 schools and churches across the state have hosted RHCK classes, graduating 626 parents in all. Manuel Jara completed its third year and graduated 90 parents in January.
"It has become a lot more than anybody thought," said Gabriel Cortes, Texas Baptists Hispanic Education Initiative director. "It's really breaking cycles. You start with a family that may have had no hope for the future and now the parents want to go to college. That will transform children's lives."
At Turner Elementary, the program is not only transforming the lives of the children and the parents but is also greatly impacting school involvement.
"The parents (who went through the RHCK program) are more willing to come to the school," said Elida Gonzalez, principal of Turner Elementary. "They are asking questions. They are asking the right questions of how to help. Before, it was just a one-way conversation with teachers saying everything. Now, the teachers can tell the parents are more knowledgeable and willing to have a conversation."
Members of Azle Avenue Baptist Church, located just two blocks away from Turner, felt led last year to adopt the elementary school to begin the RHCK program. Norma Trejo, Azle Avenue member, took a lead in the partnership and even taught the parents every Thursday morning for those 13 weeks.
"We could see the parents become excited about learning," Trejo said. "Some of them even started coming to our ESL class at the church."
After witnessing the first year's success in the school and community, both Gonzalez and Trejo say they plan to continue the partnership and offer the program for years to come.
"These parents are being pioneers for something new in this school," Gonzalez said enthusiastically. "They maintained coming every week on Thursday mornings to gain knowledge on how to better lead their children, first and foremost, but now they are the example for other parents to follow."
The Raising Highly Capable Kids program is transforming the lives of parents across Texas by educating them on how to build stronger families, and is, in turn, impacting children, churches and communities for the better.
The Texas Baptists Hispanic Education Initiative team is currently working with other churches to start a RHCK program in their own communities. For more information, contact Gabriel Cortes at 214-887-5426.