Two mothers with their children and a grandmother and her grandson sat in the pews at the First Church of the Nazarene. A fourth family was unable to make the celebration. Kerri Clouse, Transitions director, served as the master of ceremonies.
Brenda Hughes, BICC director, kicked off the speeches with a heartfelt thanks to the families.
“One thing I want you all to know tonight is, this is a milestone. You are the first graduating class, and I will have you know, the best class yet,” Hughes said.
A brief history of the program was shared with the families.
“We worked two years just getting ready to have the first [Transitions] group. We had committees on top of committees figuring out what are the best approaches, how do we do this, and who do we need to get onboard,” Hughes said. “I have to say, God has really led us down this path.”
Transitions is designed to target families with children experiencing one of two shifts in their lives: going from elementary school to middle school, or middle school to high school.
According to research, children are most susceptible to negative peer pressure during these shifts. The program teaches families how to grow together instead of individually.
Hughes congratulated the graduating families.
“I just want to bless you because you are the inaugural group. You have persevered,” Hughes said. “I am very proud of each and every one of you. I believe what you have learned will help you down your paths.”
She left with one final word.
“Remember to take what you have learned and utilize it, but also pass it on,” Hughes said.
Clouse invited each group leader to say a few words to their group members. Andrea Exley, Lisa Wiley, and David Gray congratulated the assembled families. They each described the journey through the program and the family’s effort as amazing.
“When I thought about this program early on, I realized the amount of dedication and commitment it was going to take. You all pulled together as a family to get through each week,” Wiley said. “It just means so much to have seen each one of you grow.”
She encouraged the families to band together for support after the program’s completion. Contact information sheets were left on a table for families to grab. Wiley also encouraged the families to never lose sight of hope.
“We get discouraged because of our circumstances. Hold on to hope. Together we can get through it,” Wiley said. “I am so proud of each of you.”
Clouse reflected on the first 14-week session.
“I expected everybody to grow close to their groups. I thought it would take time, but it happened much quicker and more intensely than I had expected,” Clouse said. “We had parents on their first and second night be emotionally vulnerable to their group.”
Group members supported and encouraged the vulnerability, Clouse said.
“I was just really surprised by how hungry for support and encouragement and help the families were,” Clouse. “Tonight, it is just really hard to say goodbye.”
Lisa Hembree said she grew through the program.
“There was no hope and my daughter was really out of control. It took a little while, but ever since I came here I have seen a lot of difference in her,” Hembree said.
Hembree said there has been a big change in both her daughter and in herself.
“It is hard when you have nobody to turn to for help. When you are at wit’s end and you find this it makes you feel better. I’ve met people who believe in me and give me hope,” Hembree said.
Consistency and patience are two of the lessons Hembree said she learned through the program.
“I’ve learned how to control myself. I have learned how to ignore certain things. When I started to learn how to control and ignore, I saw a big difference,” Hembree said. “It is very hard, but you just have to grin and bear it.”
Added Hembree, “I would [recommend this program]. When you feel like there is no hope — especially for single parents who feel like they have nobody this program would be the best for them. I have tried others and they do not work.”
Transitions launched in August of this year. Four families started the program and four families jumped the hurdles to the finish line. A seven-week intensive session focused on families with middle school aged children is set for early 2013.