Investing in Our Children’s Future
Above: Charles Brown helps his daughter, Brittany, with her homework
The Coatesville Youth Initiative's FAST™ Program
Further strengthening our strong commitment to youth, the foundation’s Coatesville Youth Initiative (CYI) launched the FAST™ program at the Scott Middle School to address one of the needs expressed by middle and high school students in their Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) responses. In both the fall and the spring, 14 families gathered at the school two evenings a week for 10 weeks to learn how to talk to each other about such vital issues as substance abuse and violence. Led by school and CYI moderators, separate peer groups of parents and children discussed current challenges among themselves, then parents and their own children engaged in one-on-one dialogues.
Eating together, the participants also learned the importance of sharing dinner without electronic distractions. Not unlike many American families, the Brown family from Coatesville used to eat all their meals in front of the family TV or while watching TV in their bedrooms. If there was a problem, recalls Brittany, now an eighth-grader, they argued a lot.
But now at least three days a week they eat dinner together in their dining room—without a TV on. “For us to be able to sit down and just talk about ‘How was your day?’ made me realize we needed to slow down,” says Sonora Brown, who brought both her daughter and now sixth-grade son, Charles Jr. to FAST.
Says Brittany, “It taught us different ways to communicate instead of being hostile and angry towards each other. Now we talk about our day, about things we need to change. Basically, we have a family meeting.”
Downingtown’s Silvia Corn and her son, Dihani, also benefited. “Speaking with the other parents was very helpful,” says Corn, a single mother who works as both a hairdresser and a bus driver. “Sometimes I think, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s only me.’ But I realized other families were struggling with the same things and everybody had some ideas that you could really learn a lot from and try.
“Sometimes I still have to ask questions to get out what I want to know, but I think Dihani has opened up more and I feel he’s comfortable talking to me about anything.”
Her son, now an eighth-grader at the Scott Middle School, agrees: “It’s easier to talk to my mom now,” he says.
These families’ experiences and formal research about FAST’s impact both show that it can strengthen families so that children are successful during the critical adolescent years. “One reason it works is just the simplicity of it, of families having time to just sit down and eat together,” says Jarvis Berry, the foundation’s community mobilizer. “One comment we repeatedly hear from parents is that they never realized how important it is to share meals together.”
“For us to be able to sit down and just talk about ‘How was your day?’ made me realize we needed to slow down.”
“It taught us different ways to communicate instead of being hostile and angry towards each other. Now we talk about our day, about things we need to change. Basically, we have a family meeting.”