AVANCE is a non-profit organization that works to empower at risk families to break the cycle of poverty through a family engagement approach that combines early childhood development and parenting education.
Last Saturday AVANCE hosted its 4th annual luncheon at the Junior League of Houston. The event honored two AVANCE graduate families for their dedication to the program.
The luncheon also featured a few guest speakers including journalist, Vicente Arenas; HISD superintendent, Richard Carranza; and Violinist, Kai Kight.
During the luncheon, violinist Kai Kight, walked through the crowd of people scarfing down their meals and played a song he composed himself. Kight then walked on to the stage and spoke to the audience about his experience as a composer. Kight explained that he grew up playing the songs prewritten by masters but was always more interested in the music he created himself.
Through the support of his conductor, Kight was able to write and play his own music for different audiences around the world. His message was that we, as parents and educators, serve as the conductors for the orchestra that is our youth. We should not take this responsibility lightly, as we can either teach kids to play the same old songs that were written by someone else years ago, or we can teach them to make their own music and contribute to the world in a more meaningful way.
AVANCE strives to accomplish this same goal Kight spoke on, of helping families create their own path to follow, rather than blindly following the path that has been pre-laid before them.
HISD superintendent, Richard Carranza, said, “What AVANCE does in terms of empowering parents, not just engaging them but actually empowering them, and the workshops that parents get to go through where they learn how to be their children’s first teacher is just incredible.”
With classes ranging from GED preparation to having a healthy marriage, AVANCE offers numerous courses to help parents create a better world for themselves that they can then bring up their children in.
Further, AVANCE also offers a great number of programs specifically designed to prepare children for a bright future.
“We know that high quality early education, as early as possible, is game changer particularly for students who are economically disadvantaged,” said Carranza. “AVANCE is an example of how to close that gap before students ever walk into kindergarten.”
With numerous testimonies to the impact of AVANCE, one parent stands out in particular. Karizma Young, a recent AVANCE graduate, had found herself imprisoned and pregnant.
“I was a first time mom in difficult situation. I would have never seen myself taking a parenting course because, like most people, I thought I knew everything and would just go to my mom and friends for advice,” said Young. “But I ended up in the AVANCE program and am very grateful for it. It taught me a lot of things as a parent, like patience and guidance and just how to be there for my child.”
Another aspect AVANCE works for is encouraging families, both parents and children, to learn English, while also respecting their first language.
“Something I really appreciate about AVANCE is they view language, not as a deficit but as an asset that we need to nurture and not strip from children,” said Carranza. “So when you have parents that are getting their parenting classes and learning how to support their children in their native language, and then you see students whose first language is being nurtured and cultivated in the classroom while they are learning English; that’s the goal we all want. We want all of our students to be at least bilingual if not multilingual and AVANCE encourages this.”
If you are interested in learning more about AVANCE you can visit www.avance.org.