The event was the annual fundraiser for Bradley Initiative for Church and Community, a 14-year-old think tank whose thinking leads to positive action and proven results, according to BICC Executive Director Brenda Hughes. BICC focuses on the foundational institution of human society — family. BICC is helping to repair that foundation through “Love for our family and faith for our community, which equals hope for our future.”
Marshall ended his humorous look at the family on a serious note.
“Initiative,” he mused. “That’s one of my favorite words because nothing gets done unless people act. If not for people taking an interest in my life, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m here because people stepped up and took initiative.
BICC Vice President Ken Davis said at the close of the evening, “I’ve learned that when you are poor, you don’t have choices. I’ve learned that when you are poor, it is easy to become discouraged and not have hope. We need organizations like BICC to give choice and give hope.”
The nonprofit organization learned the most effective way to address issues identified through a lengthy and communitywide listening process is by strengthening the family unit. Through its research, BICC developed three primary programs to help equip families to face challenges from prenatal to graduation. The three programs are Starfish, Transitions and Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders Today.
Starfish teaches new parents how to fulfill their role as the first and most important teacher of their children. Starfish begins with prenatal care and continues through the first grade.
Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders Today trains middle and high school students to become effective community leaders in the future.
Transitions, the newest of the three programs, engages families in a proactive process to strengthen parent-child relationships.
Hughes said BICC will not launch any new programs in 2013 because, “We want to focus our energy on the most positive impact on families and we also want to focus on sustainability for the long term.”
Transitions Director Kerri Clouse focuses on families with children from age 6 to 16. She uses an evidence-based curriculum and certified group leaders to strengthen family bonds, communication, and parenting and life skills. The program is in the ninth week of its first 14-week session.
“This program really targets children who are transitioning from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school,” she said. “Once kids start going through those changes, they all have new stressors in their lives, possibly a new school, new peer groups or new responsibilities, and it’s sometimes confusing for children.”
In those confusing times, communication gaps develop between parents and their children. Transitions classes bridge those gaps through topics such as taking ownership of feelings instead of transferring blame; quality time as a family; and strengthening bonds.
During the first nine weeks, parents have also learned to offer each other support through encouragement. But, some parents still express doubt that a particular approach will work with their child.
“We encourage them to practice that skill during the following week and when they come back, they’ll say, ‘I didn’t think it was going to work, but it did help,’” Clouse said. “A lot a times parents want to communicate to their children, but are approaching it incorrectly or inappropriately. We work on giving them those communications skills and rewarding the positive behavior in children and looking for the small changes.” Continuing, she said parents want to communicate with their children, “but are saying instead, ‘You always do this or that. You never listen to me. I’m trying to ...’ and the child just instantly throws up a wall in defensiveness and it’s hard for parents to overcome that.”
Clouse said children want to listen to their parents. They want input in their lives from their parents.
“Research has shown that youth do listen to what their parents say and they want their parents to be involved, and they want to know what their parents think,” she said. “It just depends on how it’s presented.”