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Via Esperanza at Cook Middle School aims to get children, parents ready for school

  • Noemi Salazar reads to toddlers with the Via Esperanza Centro de Educacion programs at Lawrence Cook Middle School campus in Santa Rosa on Thursday, November 7, 2013. Parents are able to drop off their toddlers to daycare care while they take English language and parenting classes. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Rosa Salinas has guided her older children through school over the years, but when the opportunity arose to attend classes about parenting and getting her youngest child prepared for school, she signed on.

"I have one (child) who is 21 years old; those times were different," she said of her older child's school experience. "I want to be on the same page."

Salinas was one of a roomful of parents — all moms except for Salinas' husband, Jose Sandoval — who are enrolled in a three-hour-a-week Avance Parent-Child Education program at Via Esperanza, a new family education and support center housed at Cook Middle School.

Via Esperanza School

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Via Esperanza, which opened in August and celebrated with a ribbon cutting Thursday night, houses infant and toddler care programs and a variety of parent classes including Avance, a nationally recognized program developed in San Antonio 38 years ago.

There is also a resource center where parents can access the Internet and schedule translation services.

The program targets low-income families. Its supporters knocked on doors around Cook's Sebastopol Road campus, alerting neighborhood families to the various programs being offered.

"The whole motto around this is helping struggling families and individuals get on their feet and be self-sufficient so they are not dependent on the system," said Lannie Medina, chief development officer with Community Action Partnership Sonoma County.

Funded by a nearly $1.4 million grant to CAP Sonoma from First 5 Sonoma County, and in partnership with Santa Rosa City Schools, Via Esperanza is expected to eventually include medical, dental and counseling resources as well as English classes. A newly inked partnership with Redwood Credit Union is expected provide up to $1 million in micro-loans to entrepreneurs who successfully complete an existing CAP Sonoma business course.

Bringing parents on campus to access resources and programs helps parents get more involved with their child's education, school officials said.

"It's the one place we know families have to come and students have to come," said Santa Rosa City Schools Superintendent Socorro Shiels. "We want to be the hub of the community."


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