Check out this great story about Briya’s dual-generation model that aired on the ABC 7 News (WJLA)!
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.”
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.
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.
“Always work as a team and help one another.”
“Start studying the first day of school so you’re not piling it up.”
“Don’t doubt yourself. Confidence is key.”
This was among the advice the incoming class of Briya’s Medical Assistant (MA) Program received from previous students as they were inducted into the program during a ceremony this fall.
Briya’s MA program, offered in collaboration with the school’s longtime partner Mary’s Center, runs for 12-15 months and prepares students for a career as a Registered Medical Assistant (RMA). RMAs perform administrative and clinical duties in medical offices, clinics and hospitals.
The new MA students were welcomed by Christie McKay, Executive Director of Briya, and Dara Koppelman, Chief Nursing Officer at Mary’s Center.
Koppelman praised the work of several MAs from earlier classes of Briya’s program who were since hired at Mary’s Center. She also emphasized the importance of medical assistants as the first and last person patients interact with at their appointments.
“My advice for all of you is to attend the class every day and stay organized,” said former student Claudia Ramos. “Study a lot whenever you have free time. Ask questions if you don’t understand.”
“Work hard and appreciate what you are receiving,” said Wendy Evora, another former student. “It’s not easy, but it’s not too hard. Ask your family, classmates and teachers for support.”
Ramos also expressed her gratitude to the program instructors: “Thank you for all of your patience and the time that you spent with each of us,” she said. “Thank you for providing me with all the knowledge that I need.”
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.
Briya’s partnership with Mary’s Center is featured in a study by the Brookings Institution as a valuable example of how schools and clinics can work together to strengthen communities.
“The combination of a school and clinic that function together as a ‘hub’ to provide healthcare, social services and education shows promise as a way to help improve social mobility in low-income neighborhoods,” according to the study.
In addition to the co-location of education, health and social services, the study cites the provision of education for parents and children simultaneously as a key strategy that contributes to Briya/Mary’s Center’s success. Researchers conclude that the combination of a dual-generation school and a clinic could be a model for others to follow.
“Briya/Mary’s Center is an interesting case of how a school-clinic hub can impact the medical, social and educational health of a community, potentially laying the foundation for greater economic mobility in a neighborhood,” the study says.
“This is a dream that has definitely come true, and I am grateful for this program and the great people that come along with it,” said Shenell Williams, one of the MA graduates, who spoke at the ceremony.
The MA Program runs for 12-15 months and prepares students for careers as Registered Medical Assistants in medical offices, clinics and hospitals. Medical Assistants perform a variety of duties, including taking blood pressure, updating patient records, giving injections, and scheduling appointments.
Briya’s MA program is offered in conjunction with Briya’s longtime partner, Mary’s Center. Maria Gomez, Mary’s Center president and CEO, spoke at the ceremony about how the program demonstrates the valuable partnership between the school and the center.
Four of the MA graduates, including Williams, have already been offered and accepted MA positions at Mary’s Center, while another has begun working as an MA for MedStar. Additional students have also received job offers.
“Working at Mary’s Center has changed my life,” Williams said. “I love my patients. This is something I have always wanted to do, and now I’m finally doing it. I am helping and making a difference.”
“My goal is to be a good mother to my children and have them see that it is never too late to study,” said Florencia Ibarra, one of three students who earned her high school diploma from Briya this June.
Ibarra, a mother of four from Mexico, started as a student in the Intermediate II class of Briya’s Family Literacy Program seven years ago. She has since improved her English enough to move to the Advanced I class and then to Advanced II, in which students are eligible to enter Briya’s National External Diploma Progam (NEDP).
The NEDP is an adult high school diploma program in which students work one-on-one with an adviser to demonstrate competency in a variety of areas. The program is performance based rather than test based, and the educational content is designed to be relevant to the life experience of adults.
The program provides students with the flexibility to work at their own pace and on their own schedule. This is significant for Briya students, who often have to balance raising children, working and attending class, among other responsibilities.
“Briya is a school that understands us as adults, parents, and students,” said Guadalupe Martinez, another 2015 graduate. “NEDP is not only at the school—I can also work at home. And the teachers support and help me when I need it.”
Earning a high school diploma from the United States helps open up many career and educational possibilities. The third 2015 Briya NEDP graduate, Wendy Evora, is continuing her education as a student in Briya’s Medical Assistant Program. Ibarra and Martinez both hope to get jobs working in an office.
All three 2015 graduates said they would encourage other immigrant parents to consider entering Briya’s program and earn their diploma.
“I would say to people that are looking for success that they will find help at Briya,” Evora said. “No matter what they are facing in life, the Briya teachers and staff are always there to help.”
“I think the most important thing is perseverance,” Ibarra said. “Nothing is impossible. I hope this helps others be confident and think that if somebody else can do it, they can too.”
Briya has been offering the NEDP—which is sponsored nationally by Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems (CASAS) and locally by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE)—since the 2010-2011 school year. Sixteen students have graduated from Briya’s program so far, and ten students are currently enrolled.
Briya students learned about their rights as workers, tenants, immigrants, and parents living in DC during Briya’s first Know Your Rights info fair on May 6.
Held at Briya’s Ontario Road site, the event was an opportunity for various local organizations to share their resources and expertise with Briya students and others from the local community.
“Student surveys and brainstorming with students and staff have shown that our families have a lot of need in areas like housing, jobs and legal support,” said Community Schools Coordinator Stephanie Mintz, who organized the event. “This was a way to bring organizations that offer these resources together in one place.”
Agencies shared materials on workers’ rights, domestic violence, immigration law, disability rights, discrimination, tax help, and more. To encourage engagement, students completed a scavenger hunt that required them to interact with the representatives.
Eleven area organizations—Ayuda, CARECEN, Catholic Charities, DC Employee Justice Center, The Equal Rights Center, Julia M. Toro Law Firm, LEDC, Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, SAFE, Sojourners, and Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs—participated in the May 6 event.
“This event was a win for both the organizations who participated and the Briya students who attended,” Mintz said.
Briya will host a second Know Your Rights event at our 3912 Georgia Ave. location from 10:30-2 on June 11. Stop by to learn about your rights as a DC citizen!