CAT Spotlight – Pajaro

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Maria Ramirez is the Program Coordinator for the Parents as Teachers program led by Action. She conducts home visits with families who are expecting or have children under the age of five, providing parenting support and building on parent’s knowledge on child and brain development. She helps parents recognize that they are their children’s first and most important teachers and that there is a lot that parents can do to foster school readiness.

“This really touched me, the fact that we conducted grassroots outreach with the families, because they’re the experts. They know what they need,” says Maria.

Maria became involved with the Bright Beginnings’ Collaborative Action Team (CAT) in Pajaro after she saw firsthand a need for more early childhood development resources in her community.

The Pajaro CAT has benefited from the work of a core group of leaders, including Lissette DeCarli, Rosemary Hernandez, L’Shanna Klein, Karina Lehrner, Lupe Macias, Sister Sandra Silva, and Maria. The group launched its efforts by conducting door-to-door surveys with families to identify which specific early childhood development indicators were of interest to the families. The CAT wanted to reach more families in the community to find out what they truly wanted and needed, and how the Pajaro CAT could help them.

Once the indicators were determined, Maria and other CAT leaders coordinated with Our Lady of the Assumption Church to arrange Parent Group Meetings. The church serves as the CAT’s only practical and safe meeting place. Due to a lack of transportation among many local families and the limited availability of the church to host meetings, only a few parents first attended. “We’re making it work, and we’re growing steadily. But it’s been a challenge,” says Maria. The meetings are held on Thursdays from 11am – 1pm. She acknowledged that this limits their audience.

“We’re not hearing from the whole community,” says Maria. “We’re missing out on working families, and those may not be able to access the church.”

Despite their challenges, the Pajaro CAT has hosted several parent meetings for the community to come together and learn from one another, and their audience is growing.

Maria hopes to establish a group called “Mentor Moms” within the community, to encourage mothers in Pajaro to support and learn from one another. The CAT also hopes to encourage more men and fathers to attend the parent meetings, as they are critical in helping the community’s children succeed.

The CAT members are working tirelessly to help parents and families work together to become aware of the early childhood resources they have while bringing attention to the community’s need for more support in this area. Maria believes that the best way to learn from one another is to work together on a peer-to-peer level. This includes working across the different CATs and providing opportunities for families to support and learn from each other. 

“When families feel empowered they become agents of change and then they are able to make changes within their own families and within their communities.”The Pajaro CAT has made great strides and will continue to learn how best to support the families and children of Pajaro. “I have learned that despite all the challenges, the parents are very resilient. They really value family and want the best for the children.” Empowered through their local CAT, Pajaro families are motivated and working to do whatever it takes for their children to succeed in and out of school.

The work of the Pajaro CAT would not be made possible without the support and dedication from:

  • Lissette DeCarli – Parents as Teachers
  • Rosemary Hernandez – Pajaro Family Resource Center, Healthy Start
  • L’Shanna Klein – Door To Hope & Parents as Teachers
  • Karina Lehrner – Capacity Consulting
  • Lupe Macias – Pajaro Valley Prevention & Student Assistance
  • Maria Ramirez – Parents as Teachers & Action Council
  • Sister Sandra Silva – Our Lady of the Assumption Church

“It’s been inspiring how many families have started attending the meetings. Many of these families were isolated, nearly half are from indigenous descent, but now they’re becoming connected – learning from each other and building on each other.”

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