Two years ago Principal Marta Plata of Manuel Jara Elementary School realized her staff of excellent teachers and leaders could work tirelessly every year to seek to educate their students and empower them to be the best they could be. However, without positive reinforcement at home, many of the lessons taught in the classroom would not change the behaviors of their students.
Through collaboration with Primera Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Plata was able to begin a program called Parent University, which is a 13-week curriculum educating parents on the 40 developmental assets that will help their children succeed.
Educators, administrators and church leaders from around Fort Worth joined together on Thursday, February 26, at Manuel Jara Elementary with a shared goal in mind: to learn about the success of Parent University and receive resources and ideas on how to start similar programs in their communities.
Principal Plata joined with Rafael Berlanga, pastor of Primera Baptist Church, to lead the meeting and share the success of Parent University, which started in early 2014.
"Parent University was designed to function as a community partnership between schools and community leaders. Churches are part of the community," Berlanga said. "Church-school partnerships are a great way for this curriculum, this program to affect change in our communities, in our families."
Mike Haley, director of Rezilient Kidz, provided training on curriculum used in Parent University called "Raising Highly Capable Kids." The curriculum is research-based and provides an interactive guide to engage parents in the education of their children.
Developed in 2010, Haley is now providing training on Raising Highly Capable Kids worldwide, as far as Kuala Lumpur and South Africa. While the curriculum is not overtly Christian, it was written with a biblical foundation and provides churches and Christian leaders with resources to have a positive impact on parents in their community.
"This is an opportunity we have as the faith community to respond to the needs in our community," Haley said.
Gabriel Cortes, director of Texas Baptists Hispanic Education Initiative, was also present as a resource to help connect administrators with area church leaders who might be interested in partnering to start new programs.
"This program is about seeing lives transformed, parents transformed," Cortes said. "Texas Baptists are glad to serve and support you as you seek to make an impact on the community around you."
Following the training session, guests were invited to attend the second Parent University graduation, where 41 parents, representing 125 children, were honored for their work in completing the program. Sixteen of the parents graduated from the second-level of parenting courses, showing a strong desire to do more to impact their families.
In a school where 100 percent of the students are on the Free Lunch or Reduced program, many parents work multiple jobs and overcoming poverty is a daily struggle. Despite time constraints, Plata found the parents were extremely dedicated to the program because the success of their children was of great importance.
Berlanga also found the church partnership through Parent University to be a positive impact on the community where he was raised and his church continues to minister.
"I have a vested interest in this community, it can't just be one person that makes a change, it takes all of us working together," Berlanga said.
At this time three more Parent Universities are in the process of starting in public schools with the help of churches in their communities. For more information on receiving training on Raising Highly Capable Kids and implementing a similar program in your area, contact Gabriel Cortes at