Mayor Bowser awards Briya grant to provide students with immigration legal services

Briya Public Charter School was honored to be named a recipient of an Immigrant Justice Legal Services Grant by Mayor Muriel Bowser on March 21.

The grant will enable Briya to provide its student families with free legal consultations and representation through a deepened partnership with Julia M. Toro Law Firm, an immigration law firm founded by attorney Julia Toro. The funds will also provide services for parents of students at Bancroft Elementary, a longtime partner of Briya.

Services funded by the grant will include on-site presentations at Know Your Rights Fairs; individual consultations; and pro bono court representation related to applications for U Visas, T Visas, green cards, asylum, citizenship, and more.

“This grant addresses many of the barriers families face when seeking legal information and services, like cost and location,” said Raquel Farah, Briya Student Services Coordinator. “We’ll be able to provide free services for people within their communities, in locations they are already comfortable with.”

“We’re thrilled to have this grant so that more families can live more peacefully and tranquilly while they pursue their education,” Toro said.

Briya is one of ten organizations serving the immigrant community in DC who were awarded IJLS grants by Mayor Bowser.

“The Immigrant Justice Legal Services grant program is one way that my administration can help support DC’s immigrant community,” the mayor said. “The District is safer and stronger when residents know and understand their rights, and these ten organizations will help spread the message that our city has their back.”

***

About Briya PCS: Families enroll in Briya’s two-generation program together: parents study English, digital literacy, and parenting while their children receive a high-quality early education. Briya also offers a high school diploma and training for Medical Assistant and Child Development Associate credentials. The school believes, and research validates, that educating parents and children together promotes strong families and success in school and in life.

Briya profiled on international UNESCO literacy database

Briya is profiled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on their Effective Literacy and Numeracy Practices Database. The database features adult education programs from around the globe with the goal of improving literacy policies and practices.

“Briya is a unique example of how a public school, through strategic partnerships with other community organizations, can serve as the hub of a community, linking together a network of services that builds on the strengths of a community to meet the diverse needs of families,” according to the profile.

Check out the profile here.

Video from Digital Promise highlights Briya’s strengths

Briya’s Two-Generation Program is showcased in a video created by Digital Promise in partnership with the Barbara Bush Foundation.

The video highlights Briya’s unique model, which enables parents to gain knowledge and skills (from basic literacy to earning a high school diploma) at the same time that their young children prepare for future success through a high-quality early education.

In the video, Briya’s Executive Director, Christie McKay, names keys to Briya’s successful outcomes:

  1. Having a steady funding stream for adult education.
  2. Simultaneously viewing adult learners as parents, workers, and community members, and then creating systems that support their needs holistically

“Adult students face a lot of challenges that young people don’t face,” Erica Schuetz, an adult education instructor at Briya, states in the video. These needs include supporting their families financially, caring for their children, and navigating the transportation system.

“As educators and as a school, we try to address those challenges by … letting students know they’re wanted here, that we miss them when they don’t show up, and also by networking them with a lot of support services within Mary’s Center and within the school and within the community.”

Briya’s adult and early childhood students achieve some of the highest outcomes in the country thanks to the education and the network of support they receive at Briya.

“[Briya is] a very rewarding place to work, and I feel a really strong relationship with the students,” Schuetz says. “I feel really lucky to be able to work in a program like this.”

Watch the video below.

Briya 10-Year Review

Briya shines during 10-year charter review

Briya is looking forward to the future after earning exceptional charter review results and having its charter renewed.

The DC Public Charter School Board is required to conduct reviews of charter schools every five years to ensure they are meeting academic, legal and fiscal standards. Briya received outstanding results on its 10-year review, and the DC PCSB board voted to renew the charter for the standard five years.

One aspect of the review was an evaluation of the school’s goal achievement, which relates to student success in PreK, adult family literacy, and workforce development programs.

Briya has met all of its goals for the past ten years, which Dan Soifer, DC PCSB board vice chair, said is exceptional.

“Nothing about [Briya’s] goals strikes me as easy to achieve,” Soifer said. “Your work is unique in the city, your role is unique, and your record of accomplishment I think speaks for itself.”

The review also included qualitative analysis. Observers made 18 unannounced visits to Briya classrooms in a two-week period. Briya earned a high rating and many positive comments from reviewers.

“The teachers had high expectations for students and the students were committed to doing excellent work throughout all of the classroom observations,” the PCSB report states. “The teachers conveyed a passion for their students and for their content.”

Observers also said that PreK students’ social-emotional development was well supported and that computer, job, employability, and life skills were well integrated into adult family literacy classes, among other comments.

Briya staff anticipates many future years of empowering DC families.

“The last ten years have been an amazing opportunity to work with such caring, dedicated staff to provide high-quality integrated education for children, women and whole families,” said Christie McKay, Briya’s executive director. “In the next five years I hope to continue to refine our model and impact lives.”

Miles Ahead Rally 2015

Briya families advocate for high-quality early education

Some of Briya’s smallest students stepped up to advocate for the importance of their education this fall.

Briya PreK students and their parents gathered on the grounds of the US Capitol to raise awareness of the benefits of early education during the Miles Ahead for Early Learning rally.

Children had a blast running in a relay race to remind policymakers that children get miles ahead when they have high-quality early learning opportunities. US senators, representatives and education leaders then spoke about the value of investing in early education and childcare for all children.

The rally was organized by Moms Rising, an organization that advocates for issues facing mothers and families nationwide.

AEFL Week 2015

Briya student wins AEFL Week contest with letter to councilmember

Manuche Gonclaves, a student in Briya’s Advanced II family literacy class, is committed to her education in spite of obstacles that she faces as a student, parent and immigrant.

Gonclaves advocated for adult learners like herself in a letter to 4th Ward councilmember Brandon Todd, which won first place in the English Language Learner category of the Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFL) Week essay contest.

Essay contest entrants were prompted to write a letter to their councilmember explaining some of the obstacles they face in pursuing their education, taking care of their family, and/or getting or keeping a good job, and to propose ways for the council to address these issues.

Gonclaves, who came to the US from Brazil five years ago, has two daughters, one of whom is in Briya’s toddler class. She is working to earn her high school diploma through Briya’s National External Diploma Program and then plans to graduate from the school’s Medical Assistant Program.

Her long-term goal is to work and save money so she can go to college and become a social worker. “I love to help people,” she said. “It’s the one thing that I want to do.”

In her letter, Gonclaves explained difficulties that she and other adult learners face in her letter.

“My obstacles are money, time and family,” Gonclaves wrote. “First, I don’t have money for college and to pay a daycare for my kids. My whole family is in my country, I don’t have anybody to help me.”

Gonclaves proposed increasing free or inexpensive daycare options and having more college scholarship opportunities so parents can afford to get further education.

“If I have a daycare for my kids, I’ll be able to go to school every day without worries,” she wrote. “The scholarships will be a good help to get my college degree without having to work many hours.”

Gonclaves was honored at an event kicking off Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFL) Week at Busboys and Poets on September 21, where she read her letter and received a prize.

“I’m lucky to come to DC because I see in other places they don’t have this type of program like Briya,” Gonclaves said. “I’m so excited to be here.”

Read Gonclaves’ full letter here.

Briya on NPR!

The ways Briya’s unique model benefits immigrant families are highlighted in a story by Armando Trull for NPR. Read and listen to the story here.

Bright Spot

Briya honored by White House as outstanding program in Hispanic education

Briya has been named a Bright Spot in Hispanic Education by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. This award, created in honor of the Initiative’s 25th anniversary, recognizes exceptional programs nationwide that support Latino education and opportunities.

“There has been notable progress in Hispanic educational achievement, and it is due to the efforts of these Bright Spots in Hispanic Education, programs and organizations working throughout the country to help Hispanic students reach their full potential,” said Andrew Ceja, Executive Director of the Initiative.

Briya was nominated for its use of a two-generation model that combats  cycles of under-education and poverty by enriching children with high-quality early childhood education, empowering parents to foster their children’s language and literacy skills from birth, and simultaneously equipping parents with the critical literacy and job skills needed to obtain employment.

As a Bright Spot, Briya is featured in an interactive online catalog that includes around 230 organizations across the country that are helping close the achievement gap for Latinos. Through highlighting these programs, the Initiative aims to encourage collaboration between stakeholders focused on similar issues, ultimately resulting in increased support for the educational attainment of the Hispanic community from cradle to career.

Briya in New America

New America article highlights success of Briya’s family engagement model

Briya’s strategies for engaging the parents of dual language learners in their children’s education are featured as outstanding in an article by the New America Foundation.

Approaches that are part of Briya’s parenting classes and PACT time, including encouraging learning at home and providing parents with materials related to what children learned in class, are noted as excellent strategies. Briya’s partnership with Mary’s Center to provide further services to families is also cited as an excellent tactic.

The article praises Briya’s PreK outcomes, stating that the school has “seen great success: student language/literacy, mathematics and social-emotional learning (SEL) scores are nearly perfect, and SEL scores reach 100 percent.”

“[O]ther early education centers should learn from places like Briya … that have intentionally prioritized family engagement and incorporated it as an integral component of their program,” the article states.

Read the full article here.