“Education. Education. Education.” Many, like Marisa Chapa of Texas, say that’s the key to getting out of poverty, but when you haven’t seen that play out in real life, it’s hard to believe education really will lead to a better income.
Marisa Chapa comes from a family of 10, and her parents had no access to formal education. When she started a family of her own, she thought their future would look just like hers. And then she found AVANCE.
Derived from the Spanish word meaning “progress or advancement,” AVANCE has served more than 1 million parents and children across the country since 1973 through parenting and early childhood education programs.
AVANCE’s Parent-Child Education Program is a free, nine-month program that breaks the cycle of poverty by working with two generations simultaneously – both parent and child. AVANCE combines skills and development training for parents with high quality early learning for children from birth to 3 years of age. So, while parents take classes in finance, good parenting, toy making and community resource awareness, their kids engage in research-based, culturally and developmentally appropriate education and care.
When she came to AVANCE, Marisa didn’t know she had goals. “I never thought I had potential to learn more or to work, but the staff at AVANCE made me believe in myself,” she said. Not only did the program help her achieve her own educational and professional goals, but her 2-year-old son was enrolled in an early education program to prepare him for kindergarten and beyond.
One-third of Hispanic students nationally perform below grade level and then more than 50 percent drop out with less than a 10th grade education. This is in part attributed to the high number of low-income families and dual-language learners and the lack of access to resources and early learning programs. According to the National Council of La Raza, only 39 percent of Hispanic 3- to 5-year-olds enroll in center-based preschool education. Because Hispanics now make up the largest minority group in the U.S. and the fastest-growing segment of the school-age population, addressing the achievement gap in this group is vital to our nation’s future.
Over nine months of weekly classes, small group meetings and monthly home visits, AVANCE parents learn that education is a powerful tool to help them move up the economic ladder and to develop self-esteem, self-sufficiency and qualify for higher skilled, higher-paying jobs.
AVANCE showed Marisa that education was her family’s key to a bright future. Her mentors encouraged her to get a GED. Her son, who was enrolled in AVANCE at the age of 2, was the first in his family to graduate from high school and now manages a store in El Paso, Texas.
“The beauty of AVANCE is that when people like me graduate from their program, it is just the first step for opening new doors to something more in life,” said Marisa.
A report from the Intercultural Development Research Association documented AVANCE’s effectiveness. AVANCE graduates in Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio moved up the economic and social ladder, often breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
Researchers found 93 percent of AVANCE children ready to enter school, and cited a 216 percent increase in the number of mothers who attained higher education degrees and a 127 percent increase in employment among parents.
Marisa is a living example of the program’s success. After graduating from the AVANCE Parent-Child Education Program, she began volunteering to give back to the organization that gave her family a fresh opportunity. Then, she worked her way up from being a cook, serving in various roles over her 27-year career, and is now a national training coordinator with AVANCE. She has come full circle in helping those who were once in her shoes and channels the same passion to others that once helped her succeed.
AVANCE has been a WKKF grantee since 1993. To date, $18 million in grants to the organization has helped uplift thousands of families in marginalized communities across the nation. AVANCE has 40 years of proven results of positive effects on families long after they graduate – especially for those who needed it the most. AVANCE has a presence in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Washington state and Wisconsin, with multiple locations across California and Texas.
Built on the knowledge that a parent’s love for their child is unwavering, powerful and long-lasting, AVANCE has put that love into action to build the capacity of children and families, as well as communities. AVANCE often hires its program participants, who have a great deal to give back to their communities, and continues to produce graduates like Marisa.
“AVANCE gave me the push and changed my life,” Marisa said. “You must make your home the first classroom, and then you’ll have the power to lead educational change in schools and communities.”