Briya’s precursor, the Even Start Multicultural Family Literacy Program, was founded in 1989 in response to a dramatic influx of immigrant families from Central America and Vietnam to Washington DC. Many of these families, fleeing violence in their home countries, had little opportunity for formal education and sought a better future for their children and families.
Even Start began as one of 76 four-year demonstration projects funded by the US Department of Education. Family literacy projects contributed to impressive boosts in the amount of time parents read books with their children, and parents reported their children getting better grades in school.**
Building on the success of the program, Even Start partnered with Mary’s Center in 1998 in order to provide immigrant families with a social change model which includes healthcare, social services, and education.
The first early childhood curriculum was developed in 2002 and was integrated with adult education and parenting programs. Having parents and children learning together and developing literacy skills at the same school was a pioneering innovation. Even Start provided a stimulating environment for children as young as newborns, giving them a strong foundation as dual-language learners.
In 2002, Even Start served as a model training site, expanding the program’s reach. In 2005, it became Education Strengthens Families Public Charter School (ESF) – one of the first to provide adult education and the only one to serve the whole family. ESF was accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in December 2011.
In the Spring of 2013, ESF changed its name to Briya Public Charter School. Briya is inspired by the Spanish word brillar, which means to shine. The word was transformed to a more typical English pronunciation to make it accessible to speakers of the many languages represented at the school. It communicates our commitment to be a place where families come to grow and thrive as learners. In the next years, Briya will continue to provide a high-quality education for adults and children, helping them meet their goals and strengthen their communities.
** Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy (2005). Policy Brief: Even Start’s Impact on Families.