Texas State University-San Marcos Upward Bound Director Sonya Lopez trained government officials of the Bermuda Department of Child and Family Services on a family violence prevention and intervention program called the Nurturing Parenting Program June 16-21.This program is now being utilized in a number of social service agencies that serve children and families in Bermuda.
“They wanted to find one program that they all use–a universal program that they would use so everyone is speaking a common language so there is continuity of services,” said Lopez. “Everyone is speaking a common language, so families’ growth is happening much faster.”
Lopez is a national trainer for Family Development Resource Incorporated which is the organization the Nurturing Parenting Program operates under. The curriculum for the Nurturing Parenting Program was developed by Stephen Bavolek, who is also the president of this organization.
The Nurturing Parenting Program is family based and builds nurturing parenting skills to prevent the use of abuse or neglect in child-rearing practices. The goals of this program are to reduce families’ dependence on social services, lower the rate of multi-parent teenage pregnancies, reduce the rate of juvenile delinquency and alcohol abuse and stop the cycle of child abuse by teaching positive parenting skills.
“It’s one of the best programs out there and the fact that this program is reaching Bermuda and making a difference over there is really an amazing thing,” said Lopez.
As the director of Upward Bound, Lopez works with 60 high school students from surrounding high schools from the time they are freshman until they graduate from a four-year institution. The purpose of this organization is to give support to high school students from low-income families and families where neither parent holds a college degree so they may go on to pursue post-secondary educations.
“My job is to work very diligently with them so they graduate from high school and go to college. Then, we track them while they’re in college until they graduate college. We continue to support them through the entire process,” said Lopez.
Lopez also uses the Nurturing Parenting Program with parents whose children are a part of Upward Bound.
“It is a relationship based program more than anything else,” she said. “It teaches those soft skills that sometimes in the academic world we don’t get, like anger management, communication, how to be disciplined in your work, how to be disciplined as an individual.”
While some students involved with Upward Bound opt to enroll in college at Texas State, others do not. Recruiting new students is not the ultimate goal of Upward Bound at Texas State but many times it does serve that purpose due to the continued exposure to the campus.
“Some of our kids come to college here and some don’t,” said Lopez. “Our goal is to get them prepared for a university setting not necessarily our university, but it’s definitely a recruitment and retention effort for this university to have Upward Bound.”
In addition to being the director of Upward Bound, Lopez is also an adjunct faculty member and teaches courses under the department of family and consumer sciences. She works as an advisor for the first generation student organization on campus and is a member of the P16 council which is an initiative in which the university works with the community to prepare children at a very young age for academic success.
“To me it’s not just about high school students. It’s about how early we can reach them to start preparing them and their families to support them,” said Lopez. “College should be an option for all. Our job as a university and a community should be preparing them.”
Lopez is currently working on her Ph.D. in business leadership at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio.
By MEGAN SINGLETARY
University News Service