Message from Christi Webb, Executive Director of
The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi and
Co-Director of Families First for Mississippi
Families First for Mississippi is one of the most exciting and rewarding places to be that you can imagine. We are growing our “family” all across this wonderful state by leaps and bounds, seeing tremendous impacts in all the long-running and in the brand-new programs we are privileged to share with so many families in so many communities.
We have heard that no man is an island and this is so true. We are working together as a state family to share our talents and resources as we help bolster those who are in the midst of so many different kinds of struggles.
Across all economic, political and every other stratum, we are extending our services across the state for improved quality of living through education, job readiness, youth development with healthy choices for teens, and so many other programs designed to help families and individuals live the best lives possible!
The hearts of those of us who work within the Families First for Mississippi system are thrilled with the advancements and successes that we see every day! We invite each of you reading this to come be a part of our family with your talent and support! We want to see all families become whole, from the womb to the tomb, and to see an explosion of strength and growth in every single sector. This is an exciting ride and we invite you to climb on board as we continue this wonderful journey.
Proceeds from Golf Tournament presented to The Family Resource Center
On July 10th, the Exchange Club of Tupelo presented a donation dedicated to the support of the Child Advocacy Center (CAC), a service provided in Lee County by The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi (FRC). The donation was from proceeds of the Exchange Club’s tenth annual fund-raiser held to aid in child abuse prevention. It was held at Big Oaks Golf Club earlier this year, and more than $7000 was raised.
The National Exchange Club’s National Project is the prevention of child abuse. This project stems from their three programs of service: Americanism, Youth Programs and Community Service.
CAC’s mission includes forensic interviews with children aged three to ten (twelve to seventeen on referral) of sexual or physical abuse or witnesses to physical violence. CAC is part of a multidisciplinary team that reviews each situation and provides support through therapy, medical referrals and with any legal actions that might be indicated.
When the case elevates to court review, CAC and the team work together to protect, provide therapy and to support victims (plus guardian or parent
that is not involved in the abuse) as the accused offender is examined by the legal system and when processed through the court system. Trauma therapists or counselors work with the victims, as well as make referrals to indicated medical or other agencies as suits the case.The services provided by the CAC are free!
In addition to the CAC, FRC provides family support programs and education to serve the needs of families across Mississippi. FRC partners with Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) in Families First for Mississippi which is a program that seeks to strengthen families of all backgrounds and life circumstances by providing education, youth development, parenting, workforce and job readiness through seminars, workshops, classes, and presentations.
Pictured left to right are FRC Car Safety Coordinator Pam Morris, Tom Garrett of B & B Concrete, FRC Gen+ Coordinator Stephanie Collier, Valerie Boykin of Community Bank, Amanda Angle of Watkins Uiberall PLLC, Randy Harris of Community Bank and President of the Exchange Club, and FRC Executive Director Christi Webb.
Pictured above are LaTosha and Dalton Babb.
PACT provides activities for parents and kids
The Family Resource Center (FRC) in Hernando strives to improve parent and child interactions on a daily basis. On top of teaching parenting and co-parenting classes, FRC also provides weekly Parent and Child Together (PACT) Activities. PACT Activities include different learning opportunities, games, and hands-on experiences for children of all ages and abilities.
Every Friday, FRC Hernando pre-packages a new PACT Activity for the following week. Families are encouraged to pick one up when visiting the facility. With each PACT Activity, parents are asked to spend time with their child to focus on interaction, play and learning.
The kids that visit FRC Hernando are always excited to find something new each week and the parents have been appreciative of the simple activities that help strengthen the bond they share with their child. The PACT Activities have been a hit for not only parents and children, but also extended family members too! Although the main focus is on parents and their children, FRC Hernando acknowledges that other family members and family friends often play a huge role in a child’s growth and development. Therefore, FRC Hernando frequently offers PACT Activities that are free to be shared with other caregivers too.
These caregivers can often find bags that incorporate time for aunts, uncles, grandparents, and all others that are considered “family” or act as a parent-figure in a child’s life. In strengthening a child’s bond with individuals across the whole family, FRC is hoping to provide the opportunity for each and every child to grow and learn within a safe and fun environment while being surrounded by those that love them the most!
NLRO Graduate in Hernando has big plans
Cody first walked into the Family Resource Center – Hernando Campus (FRC) on January 11, 2018. Cody had been referred by the DeSoto County Circuit Court for the free, online high school diploma program. Cody, like many other students, was held back from graduating due to the sole fact that he did not pass the state test at the end of his 12th grade year. Fortunately, he knew that with a little hard work, he could change the outcome of his future!
Cody was enrolled into the New Learning Resources Online (NLRO) diploma program on January 25th and over the next 5 months, he worked from the comfort of his own home and the FRC office in Hernando. He regularly met with NLRO Facilitator, Cyndi Lou Griffin, to work through difficult assignments and take exams. On June 28th, Cody completed his last, final exam and officially finished all required credits to earn his high school diploma! The entire FRC office celebrated his major accomplishment and even treated Cody to cupcakes as part of the celebration.
Cody currently works as a Kitchen Manager at a local restaurant and has plans to enroll in culinary school after he walks at the NLRO Summer Graduation ceremony. Cody told FRC staff that he dreams of opening his own restaurant one day and wants to do everything that he can to make that dream happen. Cody said he wants nothing more than to see others succeed with him, and FRC believes he has the skills required to do just that at his very own restaurant. When asked to share words of encouragement for other students, Cody said, “Come to class and do the work. It’s not as hard as you think it is. As long as you put your mind to it, you can be a high school graduate.”
Cody truly is an inspiration and everyone at FRC would like to congratulate him on his hard work and dedication! We look forward to hearing more great news from Cody as he follows his dreams and continues to strive for greatness!
In an effort to provide students who are at risk of dropping out or failing to graduate a second chance, Families First for Mississippi offers students an option to earn a high school diploma in a flexible and hassle-free environment. Whether a student wants to take a course in a private home, computer lab, or classroom setting, Families First for Mississippi can cater to those needs.
FRC provides family support programs and education to serve the needs of families across Mississippi. partnering with Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) in Families First for Mississippi which is a program that seeks to strengthen families of all backgrounds and life circumstances by providing education, youth development, parenting, workforce and job readiness through seminars, workshops, classes, and presentations.
NLRO Graduation at ICC July 19, 2018, for class of 35 students
Taylor Pierce is an NLRO Coordinator in the program and works daily with the students. She was also instrumental in organizing and choreographing the graduation ceremony.
Becky DeVaughn is an NLRO Coordinator and serves as a tutor and proctors for exams.
She also provides additional services for FRC.
Christi Webb, Executive Director of FRC, is with Senator Chad McMahan and his wife, Vicky at the graduation. Ms. Webb gave the opening address.
Johnny Flynt heads the Fatherhood program in Oxford. He has also served as a minister for many years.
Thirty –five students received their high school diploma at a commencement service held at the ICC Belden Campus. These graduating students were a group who had missed receiving a diploma through the school system due to circumstances or conditions that precluded their attaining all the credits and checking all the boxes in the traditional manner.
Christi Webb, Executive Director of The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi (FRC), addressed the 2018 Summer Graduating Class for the Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) NLRO high school diploma program, one of the many programs offered by FRC.
“They didn’t get there by themselves; no one gets there alone. We have some of the very best teachers here at Families First for Mississippi and they are not only teaching in academics but teaching about life.”
She added that it is not just about getting the diploma but what you can get from life after getting the diploma.
“These students have worked so hard to get to this point and receive their diploma,” Webb continued, explaining that some came to the program nervous and scared that they wouldn’t be able to do this. “One of my favorite Bible verses is ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)’ and I encourage you to remember this as you take your next steps.”
Johnny Flynt, Regional Coordinator for the FRC Fatherhood program out of Oxford, addressed the class of 35 students in a moving and inspirational graduation oratory. Flynt was a pastor for 28 years at North Oxford Baptist Church. He also taught in the exercise science department and coached baseball at the University of Mississippi for 26 years.
Information leads to inspiration; inspiration leads to application; application leads to transformation, Flynt told the class, directing the graduates to take all the steps needed for a positive transformation in their life and career pathways. “Celebrate what you have finished,” he said, advising them to never stop moving toward continuous improvement and advancement.
The New Learning Resources Online (NLRO) is a state, regionally, and nationally accredited distance learning program with a straight-forward delivery system that anyone can use. Students can access the internet based system from home, from any of the FRC or FFFM centers, to complete each of the needed disciplines. Tests on each and the final examinations are conducted in these centers by proctoring facilitators, who serve not only as guides through the program but as tutors, in many cases. Diplomas awarded are fully accredited and recognized by the state of Mississippi.
The goal of the program is to help at-risk students and those who were unable to earn their high school diploma due to intervening situations in their lives. The success of the program has had a tremendous impact on the statewide program and is, in part, responsible for the state’s high school graduation ranking moving to 83%. The graduation rate in 2014 was 74.5%.
There were 35 graduates on this day and there are 35 success stories to be told. While there might not be space enough to share each of these, one stands out about a young woman of 20 who has already overcome a field full of obstacles, against all odds, and moving toward an abundant life of service.
Two Graduating Stars illustrate hope regained through the online high school diploma program
“’As long as there is breath, there is hope.‘ This is something my grandfather told me and I always remember it,” said Kaytlin Bohn, who graduated last week through the New Learning Resource Online (NLRO) program at The Family Resource Center (FRC)/Families First for Mississippi program. Kaytlin was the very first student to enroll in the program in North Mississippi.
“I originally came to FRC to get my GED but Ms. (Christi) Webb told me about the diploma program,” Kaytlin said, explaining how she enrolled and completed a transition from a 5th grade education to a high school graduate in only seventeen months.
“I was fully focused and waited to do this as quickly as I could. Before this, I never would have thought there would be hope for me to ever go to college,” she continued.
“I graduated last week and just got my ACT scores back (less than a week later). They were GOOD!” the seventeen-year-old said. “This is such a blessing. With a 5th grade education, there isn’t much you can do but now...... if I can overcome this, then I know I can handle anything with the support of my family.”
She has applied to Itawamba Community College and is waiting anxiously to hear if she has been accepted. Bubbling over with enthusiasm and hope for the future, Kaytlin doesn’t know her career choice yet but knows that she wants to be in a field where she can help others. “I haven’t decided. Maybe something in therapy or psychology would be a great career pathway. Or, maybe, the criminal justice system.”
About her experience at FRC, she said that everyone was so “nice. They are like family, always with smiles and hugs. Taylor and Becky and Molly all helped me to get where I am.” She was referring to Taylor Pierce, Becky Devaughn and Molly Goodson who are NLRO coordinators, tutoring the students and serving as proctors for the examinations.
About her father, Kaytlin said, “He is my biggest supporter. I couldn’t have done any of this without him. He has been my biggest inspiration in life.” She is the youngest in her family with 2 half-sisters, 1 half-brother, and 1 step-brother. “My step-mother is helping to work on all the paperwork,” she said, referring the college entrance processes including applying for scholarships or funding and taking all the steps needed to get enrolled in college and to begin to see dreams become realities.
“I really appreciate them, all of them,” she said, naming again the education team, her family members and Ms. Webb.
Kaitlyn Standridge achieved success in the NLRO program and graduated, against all odds. Even though she was a straight A student in high school when she was still attending, she “got into activities that I didn’t need to be in,” she said. During this phase of her life, her grades weren’t suffering but her activities resulted in motor vehicle charges and shop lifting charges that landed her in jail for 30 days before she was moved to God’s House of Hope. Her court appointed attorney recommended that she enter their program.
Life has had some serious complications for Kaitlyn, including losing her mother when she was two years old. The challenges continued to present themselves in this young girl’s life and she gave birth to a precious little girl three years ago at the age of 17. After 30 days of jail and then moving to God’s House of Hope for six-month court-ordered stay, “Jesus changed my life,” she said.
She had enrolled in a 30-hour program to help prepare her to take her GED. “I tried and that just didn’t work out,” she said. “Oh, I have always loved to learn and I wanted to finish,” she said, but… there was always a “but” until she landed in Nettleton, Mississippi, at God’s House of Hope.
Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) had placed a remote learning center right in the facility through which a high school diploma could be earned. FFFM staff goes there weekly not only to tutor, administer proctor testing, but also to teach classes about anger management, fatherhood, parenting and other programs.
Kaitlyn was admitted for the initial residential period, which included these learning opportunities, counseling and supervision. That has ended and she is still there. Kaitlyn has decided that she wants to continue on as a staff member. She is currently undergoing training and will continue residency for a period of a year after training. She does plan eventually to go to college but is unsure in which field she will major. “As a child, I loved to pretend I was a teacher, have always loved teaching,” she said. Maybe she is already on the way because she currently helps the other residents.
The three principles underlying the rehabilitation, according to Amy Coyle, director of the center, are 1) Relationship to Christ, 2) Self-knowledge, and 3) Determining the root causes and core issues of each resident with a view to a life transformation. Counselors are on staff and work daily with members of the “house.”
Kaitlyn was the youngest resident ever entered into the House of God program. She is the first member of the house to enroll in the NLRO and earn her high school diploma.
“Can I tell you my favorite Bible verse?” Kaitlyn asked. It is:
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” [1 Timothy 4:12 New International Version (NIV)]
The God’s House of Hope is a non-profit organization designed to rehabilitate to help people who have life-controlling problems, such as drug or alcohol addictions, through ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. More information is available at www.godshouseofhopems.org.
Kristin Michael’s calling: Helping others
Baldwyn resident donates loads of clothes to FRC for those in need
Kristin Michael of Baldwyn believes in helping people and making life better for others. That’s why she has donated many clothes to the Clothes Closet at the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi in Tupelo.
“I was cleaning out things here at the house, and I was also helping at the church,” Kristin said. “They were doing ‘Neighbors Helping Neighbors.’ I didn’t realize there were as many people locally and in the surrounding areas who need help. The Lord laid it on my heart, as I was going through these clothes, that this was what I needed to do, to help people who are in need.”
A lot of people may have clothes around the house they don’t wear anymore or that they’re tired of wearing. Kristin also had another reason for having a large number of clothes at her house.
“I lost a lot of weight, like a hundred pounds,” she said. “So when the Lord told me to ‘Take these clothes that you no longer wear anymore and give them to others,’ I did.”
Kristin said she’s kept the weight off for five years, and she knew she would never need the clothes again. “
Christi (Webb) was my go-to person to give the clothes to,” said Kristin, who lives near the FRC executive director. “As my mother and I talked, she suggested I ask Christi if she could use them (at FRC). So I went by there, and she said yes. I’ve taken clothes
Kristin Michael donated "truck loads" of clothes to The Family Resource Center Clothes Closet.
throughout the past year, like three or four bags at a
time. It’s a continuous thing for me. I took some to
them just the other day.”
Kristin attended Blue Mountain College and Northeast Mississippi Community College. She has worked at Wheeler Head Start in Prentiss County for 18 years and before that for four years at Jericho Baptist Church Day Care in Union County.
“I’ve kept children since I was 13, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I love children. I don’t have any of my own. I love teaching and it brings joy to me to help families through teaching. I still stay in touch with some of the first group I taught at church daycare. They tell me what a difference I made in their lives, even at four and five years old. Some of them are married now and have children.”
Helping people. That’s rewarding for Kristin. That’s also why when she saw those clothes, she saw more than things she didn’t use anymore. And she knew what to do.
“When the Lord said ‘Go,’ I did,” Kristin said. “It’s like the verse that says ‘Go and Tell.’ This was my mission. This is my ‘Go and Tell’ story.”
And the people who seek help from the Family Resource Center have Kristin Michael to thank when they search the clothes closet and find what they need to take to their homes.
“It gives me a sense that I’ve helped someone in need,” she said. “It makes me feel proud that I can do that. The Bible says ‘Love thy neighbor’ and that is what I’m doing, giving them clothes and loving my neighbor by helping them out.”
--- Jeff Roberson, FRC Oxford
Abby McDonald is Regional Coordinator in Family Resource Center’s Hernando office. Here is a Q&A with her about her role.
Tell us a little about your background:
I was born and raised in Memphis, TN. After I graduated high school I moved to Louisville, KY and attended a very small school called Bellarmine University. I originally thought I was going to study to be a veterinarian, but that lasted all of about 3 months and I immediately switched my major to psychology and added a concentration in clinical and counseling psychology. I graduated from Bellarmine in May of 2016 and then moved back home.
You started with FRC in August, 2016:
I did! After I moved back home, I reached out to Christi McCafferty (Regional Coordinator in the Southaven FRC office) as I knew she worked in Social Work. I had heard her talk about her work with Families First in the past and I always thought what she did seemed interesting.
Talk about what roles you’ve had in Southaven and Hernando, and your current title and duties:
I originally was hired to be Christi's receptionist. I am extremely appreciative of the time that I spent as a Receptionist, because it helped me become more familiar with the scope/details of the grant. During this time, I attended meetings and trainings to learn more about Families First/FRC as well as the needs of the community and what other social service programs were offered within the community…..I guess our work paid off because…..Christi Webb and Kristie Greer-Ellis (then County Director of MDHS DeSoto County, now Regional Supervisor for MDHS) were recruiting me to open the office in Hernando. At first I was conflicted because I had recently been accepted to start a Master's Program in Clinical Assessments and Diagnostics at Vanderbilt University…..After much reflection, I decided to hold off on pursuing my Master's and instead started the work to fully carry out the Gen+ model to northwest Mississippi.
What type growth have you seen with FRC in both locations:
HUGE GROWTH. When I initially started with FRC, we didn't even have an office! Christi and I were working from her house. So if you can imagine going from working in someone's living room floor to working across two different, full-service centers in one county - that to me is HUGE. When we opened the Hernando location, no one knew who we were or what we did. If anyone came into the office, they were looking for the Child Support building. But now, we get a flood of people walking into the office each week for all sorts of different reasons. The best feeling in the world though, is when someone comes in to the office and says that they're here because a friend told them we could help them.
The Hernando and Southaven FRC offices seem to co-exist well in the same county:
The Hernando and Southaven offices piggy-back one another. Because Desoto is so big, it's nearly impossible for one person to have all of the connections with other organizations in the community. With that being said, Christi and I have learned to bounce off of each other in regards to spreading the word about FRC and in regards to serving the community. The Hernando Office primarily stays in-house because we manage the Gen+ referrals for DeSoto, Tate, Tunica, Tallahatchie, and Bolivar counties. Christi's office has more of the boots-on-the-ground responsibility - they are the ones out in the community teaching classes. However, Christi and I both actively search for new organizations to team up with, places to teach classes, and people/places that can help us provide resources to families and individuals…..Due to our doubled presence in the county, it has helped us reach more people. In addition, our office in Hernando is located in the same complex as MDHS Economic Assistance, the Hernando Health Department, and MDCPS - all of whom have clients from all over DeSoto County that need FRC services. So, when these individuals make a trip to E.A., the Health Dept., or CPS they are able to walk right across the lot and still receive FRC services without having to find a way to drive 25 minutes to the office in Southaven.
Share a goal for the Hernando office the rest of 2018:
My goal for the rest of 2018 is simple - it's to keep pushing forward and to keep helping families. If we can do just that then I think we'll be alright.
A Busy Summer for Oxford FRC
Our center has been open at 104 Skyline Drive in Oxford for two years in August. We’ve come a long way since all we had were a couple of chairs, a desk or two, and a couch somebody quickly hauled away, all left over from the building’s previous occupant.
The names Family Resource Center of North Mississippi and Families First for Mississippi are now recognizable in the Oxford, Lafayette County, Region 1B areas. I’m sure it’s the same type progressive story you’ve seen and experienced where you live and work.
Last summer we were still getting a foothold within our communities and counties and still getting to know people. This summer it’s been entirely different. It’s almost like we’ve had something going on all the time, and that’s a good thing.
As soon as the school year ended, which also brought to a halt our daily school-age tutoring and the weekly senior computer class, we were in summer mode. Since then we’ve had the second New Learning Resources School District Graduation Ceremony that we hosted again in Batesville. And once again, just like last summer’s first graduation, we watched 40 people receive their diplomas, along with probably 250 of their families and friends who attended. Batesville and the South Panola School District embraced the NLRO program in 2016 and set a standard for others to follow.
Several of our students at the Oxford FRC completed their coursework in time for that graduation in early June. One of our students, Jhalil Coleman, completed his just after that and was able to walk in the ceremony at Itawamba Community College, Belden campus, in July.
Jhalil had been a part of the program at our center since last August. We celebrated with him his accomplishment of receiving his high school diploma.
“I feel overwhelmed and excited that I finally finished my high school classes,” Jhalil said. “If I met someone who did not have a high school diploma, I would tell them about the NLRO program and FRC. The people here are nice, and they want to help everyone.”
Along with reading camps, a health fair, charter property events, and a coalition meeting in our office with other community organizations, the past couple of months have been productive and prolific.
--- Jeff Roberson, FRC Oxford
Jeff Roberson and Ashley Pfhaler promo the FRC Oxford's first annual Healthcare Fun Fair on Supertalk radio in north Mississippi
NLRO graduate Jhalil Coleman with family members and others in
attendance to support him at the ICC Belden ceremony
Literacy and Reading Camps Important Part of FRC Oxford Summer
One of the main aspects of the summer for the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi’s Oxford campus was literacy. Reading skills, especially for children between the end of the school year and the beginning of another school year, were the focus of the staff in Oxford.
There were two distinct “camps” for FRC Oxford, although both of them were for multiple weeks. The one housed in the FRC Oxford building was called “Back For S’More Learning.” The June 19-21 camp, which had been in the works for months, was so successful that a second camp in the same setting was held June 28-30.
Ashley Pfahler, FRC Oxford field educator, said it was rewarding to see the children enjoy themselves, have fun, and improve their reading skills, all at the same time.
“We worked on sight words and on reading comprehension,” Pfahler said. “We also did some arts and crafts. There was a different theme each day. We networked with the Lafayette County School District, with the Oxford-University School, and several day cares and churches. Our target population was rising first and second graders. One of the goals was to prevent regression in the summer. It was an opportunity to allow kids to maintain and improve their reading skills while out of school.”
The in-office camp had an actual “camp” feel to it. Each day had a different theme. Day one was S’mores. Day two was Fireflies and Flashlights. Day three was Fishing. The classroom was decorated and set up with areas to allow interaction for each theme.
“I remember one child named Christian that I overheard say ‘This was the best day ever’ after one of our camp days,” Pfhaler said. “His mom was very happy he could continue enhancing his reading literacy skills by signing him up for our computer-based literacy program.”
The camp had much community support. Larson’s Cash Saver, Kroger, and Wal-Mart donated supplies. Chik-Fil-A, Soulshine Pizza, and Oby’s each supplied lunch for one day of the camp.
“After doing this the first time, we now know what’s effective, and we saw positive growth in reading skills,” said FRC Oxford field educator Blakely Beggs. “We look forward to more camps next summer.”
In addition, throughout the summer on Tuesday mornings, FRC Oxford teamed with the Oxford Police Department for a summer reading program held at the police department. Dr. Debra Moore of FRC Oxford said there were so many benefits from teaming with OPD.
“In addition to reading and literacy improvement, the kids were able to see police in a positive light,” Dr. Moore said. “Especially African-American kids might be apprehensive by what they see on TV regarding the police. So this was a very good experience for them to be able to interact.”
Moore said the kids were able to visit with the K9 officer, the mounted horses, hear a dispatch call, and see the inner workings of a police department up close.
“Our four summer interns here were involved with us. OPD officer Bryant Collins was involved with us and loved those kids and did such a great job with them,” she said.
“The C.B. Webb community of the Oxford Housing Authority is just across the street from OPD, and those kids joined us. We will also continue to work with them in the fall. We also worked with the kids on a healthy foods program in conjunction with the MSU extension office. They worked on how to make healthy foods with fruits and vegetables and ice cream with yogurt, just a lot of things focused on nutrition. Learner’s Playhouse brought their kids each week. We also branched out and did some reading camps at Educate Learning Center in Como, and the interns went to three daycares in Panola County – the Boys and Girls Club, Hoskins Day Care, and Magnolia Day Care. It was a very successful summer for us.”
FRC Oxford hosts first annual HealthCare Fun Fair
The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi in Oxford teamed with Magnolia Health for the first annual HealthCare Fun Fair on July 24 at North Oxford Baptist Church Family Life Center.
Jan Bryan headed up the Magnolia Health side of things, while the FRC Oxford staff worked with her to make the day a huge success. More than 400 attended.
One of the major draws to the event was the “Choices for Children and Family” mobile clinic from Jackson. The staff helped kids with dental, vision, hearing, and physicals screening. All of it was free.
The FRC booth at the fair focused on oral health and taking care of one’s teeth.
“We wanted to also encourage kids to be more physically active,” said Ashley Pfhaler, field educator for FRC Oxford. “One of the highlights of the fair was the setup of Health Works from Tupelo. They had mini-trampolines, balance boards, hoola hoops, just a lot of things to emphasize to kids about being physically active.”
Smoothie King was on hand with products, there was a Zumba class by Wendy Brasher-Raby, United Way had a table, the MSU extension office was involved, as were the Mississippi Department of Health and the University of Mississippi School of Nursing.
“We had so much community support for this,” Pfhaler said. “We were able to give away numerous school supplies, including 65 back packs, and we served lunch for 100.”
FRC Oxford Regional Coordinator, Jack Gadd, said he was pleased with how much response he saw from the health fair.
“Our staff worked hard all summer, and the health fair was a successful example of their efforts. We are pleased to be able to serve our communities. And getting kids ready for school, including their health and well-being, was an important part of what we did this summer,” Gadd said.
Giving the gift of voice through assistive technology
Can you imagine if you had to go to school but, because of autism, you couldn’t speak? It goes without saying this would severely limit the normal benefits of education. Now, through assistive technology, the world of children with these kinds of challenges can change and hope abounds.
The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi (FRC) is partnering with the Mississippi State University T. K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability to remove limitations for those needing assistive technology to be able to progress and become as interactive and as independent as possible.
T. K. Martin Center at Mississippi State University has a specialized team of Speech-language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Special Educators, and Rehabilitation and Biomedical Engineers. Their teams travel throughout the state to do evaluations on children with certain types of special needs. Because the cost of evaluations many times exceeds a school district’s budget, there have been many children in the past that were not given even an initial assessment and evaluation.
Families First for Mississippi is helping to change this pattern. In fact, according to Janette Hriesh, Speech Language Pathologist, the number of children seen has doubled. To show the change in one youngster’s life, read the story below as related by Janette.
“One of the most memorable evaluations I completed to date was in Kiln, Mississippi. I went to evaluate a ten-year-old student with autism. The teacher explained he is completely nonverbal and his interaction was limited in the classroom. During the evaluation, I presented various activities that he enjoyed and by which he was motivated. I modeled vocabulary on the device so he could learn to use those words. At the end of the evaluation, this student was able to use fifteen words on the communication device to request, direct, comment and interact with both the teacher and me! This student who has been nonverbal for ten years was able to learn to use
fifteen words on the device in one hour!
As I began packing up my belongings into a bag at the end of the evaluation, the student repeatedly unzipped my bag in an attempt to get that device back out. That day, I had given him a voice, and he just couldn’t bear me leaving with it.
For my job, I travel to school districts all over Mississippi to do augmentative and alternative communication evaluations. Some weeks, I am in the Delta while the next week, I will be in central Mississippi and the next week on the coast, completing evaluations for communication devices. For most of these students I see, I am their last chance of hope. The school districts, teachers and parents have tried various therapy and interventions with minimal success but, as one of the final attempts, a referral for a communication device is made.
I could tell countless stories but the overall conclusion at the evaluations for the parents, teachers, and students is that hope is given. The students are able to utilize the communication device and have a voice. The exhausted, hopeless, disheartened environment that I entered is changed to be one of hope, power, opportunity and a voice. Communicating is not a privilege, and these evaluations give these students what every person in the world deserves: a voice.”
FRC is partners with dozens of organization, agencies and people all across the state of Mississippi. There are multitudes of successes in so many different areas: education at many different levels, parenting and family relations, youth development, workforce and job readiness, child advocacy, and much more. The purpose of all these programs is as simple as it is complicated to execute: FRC wants every person in the state to be able to live up to their potential and to provide education at all needed levels to better lives for families across the state.