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YOUNG PARENT PROGRAM in the News
MORNINGSIDE ROTARY HELPS YOUNG PARENTS TO GRADUATE
A donation from the Morningside Rotary Club just made it possible for more young parents to complete their education through the purchase of five new laptops for the YMCA’s Young Parents Program.
Run in partnership with Central Okanagan Schools, the YMCA Young Parents Program provides parents under the age of 20 with the fundamental tools they need to thrive, including child care, parenting education, life skills training, connections to critical resources and a supportive community.
“Our Rotary Members are incredibly passionate and supportive in helping young families, no matter what age, to have a healthy start and reach their full potential,” says Sheila Perepalkin, Morningside Rotary Chair. “The purchase of much needed laptops will help these young parents to complete their homework and studies while their children are being cared for in the room next door, as well as advance their technology skills and pursue post-secondary and career opportunities.”
If you, or someone you know is interested in contributing to our community by joining the Morningside Rotary Club, please contact Sheila Perepalkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit thier Facebook page. To donate to the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign or to learn more about their charitable work, contact Rhonda Zakala at 250-491-8672.
The Young Parent Program, currently in its second year of operation by the YMCA of Okanagan, has received a $12,000 funding boost.
"I would not have graduated from high school without the Young Parents Program," says a teenage mom from the program. "Knowing my child was well cared for in a licensed, quality day care with the YMCA I was able to focus on my education instead of dropping out. With the help and support I received, I am able to move towards my dream of going to college and securing sustainable employment to care for my child and myself in the future."
The YMCA Young Parents Program, located next to Kelowna Senior Secondary, provides parents under the age of 20 with the fundamental tools they need to continue their education, life skills training, connections to critical resources and a supportive community.
I am grateful to be able to make a difference in the lives of young mothers and families in our community,"' said Joan Spence, YMCA Family Support Facilitator. "Many of them face significant challenges, which are often difficult to overcome without the support of community resources and positive role models. Ultimately, the most rewarding part is seeing young parents succeed, even beyond their own expectations. It's so amazing that it brings tears to my eyes."
The YMCA Young Parent Program is funded in part through donors, providing basics many teenage families would not be able to afford such as nutritious daily meals, diagpers, formula, and clothing for their child.
Nominated for the BCCF Distinguished Service to Families:
It is with great honour that I nominate Joan Spence for the BCCF Distinguished Service to Families Award. Over the past few months I have been working along-side Joan as she graciously guides and mentors’ young parents. As soon as I met Joan, her passion and dedication to young parents was evident, creating positive influences on young parents lives. Throughout my time learning and shadowing Joan, it has been apparent the need for the young parent program, as well as a mentor such as Joan. I have experienced the impacts and positive changes Joan has influenced on young parents lives.
Joan has a gentle, supportive and encouraging approach where I have witnessed her build strong relationships with young parents. Not only does Joan provide a safe, accepting and warm environment for young parents, she advocates for their needs and rights during times of frustration and additional barriers that young parents face. Joan has intervened with a keen awareness of policy, advocating for young parents to have access to the services available and encourages young parents to attain their goals. Joan emphasizes her work with young parents on building healthy attachments, and it is evident that this knowledge is integrated and passed down to the young parents in their parenting and communication styles. Joan has helped many young parents build stronger connections within their communities, peer interactions, families as well as within their selves.
Joan has emphasized to me as a graduate student the importance of supporting families and professionals by sharing knowledge and building community connections. Joan is an active member on the Okanagan Collaborative Family Law group which shows her dedication and the importance of supporting families. Communities are influential aspects in family lives, and Joan works with this value by helping build strong relations and connections to our greater community. Joan’s passion to create positive change is evident, as she is focused on continuing education and utilizing evidence based research and best practices.
In closing, it is my hopes that Joan is considered as the nominee for the BCCF Distinguished Service to Families Award as her passion and expertise are evident and vital to the growth and ongoing positive changes to the community of Kelowna.
May 1, 2018
To Whom It May Concern;
RE: Carol Matusicky Distinguished Service to Families Award
It is my pleasure to provide a letter of recommendation for Joan Spence. Joan has worked for the YMCA of Okanagan in the roll of Family Support Facilitator for the Young Parents Program since June 2017 when the YMCA was approached to take over the operations of this program and the child care in partnership with SD#23.
We are so grateful that Joan came to us with her vast experience in working with Young Parents, her years of experience and education allowed her to build trust with the families in the Young Parent Program who were without any services for at least 4 months. Their prior experience led them to distrust the young parent program and staff along with the care providers. Joan had a difficult job ahead as we worked carefully to rebuild the service and reputation of the program for these families and within the community.
Since the start of our operations Joan has been vital to the lives of many young parents. She is their greatest advocate and support system. I have witnessed her go above and beyond on a daily basis, working every angle to ensure these families have every available resource. She takes a holistic approach to all the work she does and establishes strong foundations of success for each family.
Early on, Joan advocated to the school district for class space and an assigned room teacher. We were unsure of the number of students utilizing that space, they were considering reconfiguring the previous parent classroom. This decision would have the greatest impact on the parent-child bond, as this classroom is next door to the child care center. Joan found a way to ensure the district held this spot regardless of the number of students accessing it. The program continues to thrive and grow, many families use this space today because of Joan’s continued outreach skills and inviting the young parents to try the program.
Joan brings a wealth of experience and education including Masters of Education, Early Childhood Education Certification, BA in Child & Youth Care, and Registered Clinical Counsellor. She is passionate about working with at-risk youth and supporting the family bond and with her vast expertise she is a unique gift to the families who participate in the program. Even though she is qualified to do many things, she chooses to work passionately with the young parents and for the YMCA of Okanagan. We could not express the gratitude we have for the lives she is changing everyday, we are so fortunate to have Joan leading our Young Parent Program.
Joan’s acts of service reach far beyond her profession and career at the YMCA. I can not think of anyone more deserving of this award, as not a moment passes that Joan is not advocating for someone in this program or removing barriers to success for the families. Joan cares deeply about each and every young parents education, their emotional well-being and is fully believes that they can reach their full potential.
Danielle Miranda, YMCA G.M. Day Care
Advocacy (2011 - 2016)
Joan Spence has been volunteering with Aunt Leah's Place since January of 2011. Joan's volunteer journey began as a tutor with our young participants and grew into an educational presenter/consultant for our literacy program and then as a child & youth advocate and board member.
It was a privilege to have Joan volunteer with us. Her ability to connect and establish trust with our youth and families was invaluable for our young people as well as to our new program focus area of increasing educational outcomes for foster youth. Joan's passion and dedication for the work that we do translated into a strong board member that clearly understood the risk and protective factors involved in our work with foster children.
Joan was an incredibly reliable and passionate volunteer.
She is greatly missed.
Sarah Stewart, Executive Director, Aunt Leah's Place