More space will help serve more families

Forest Grove-based Adelante Mujeres will move its adult education program — and the early childhood education program connected to it — to Hillsboro in September.

The two programs are moving after 12 years at their Forest Grove site, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church on Elm Street.

Starting in September, three of the programs’ four classrooms will be located in the Oregon Child Development Coalition (OCDC) building on Southeast Enterprise Circle. The other classroom will be in Cornelius.

Adelante’s main offices will remain in Forest Grove on Main Street.

OCDC is a statewide nonprofit — the state’s sixth largest, according to its website — with much the same mission as Adelante Mujeres.

Adelante and OCDC had been talking for “quite some time” about partnering together, said Adelante Executive Director Bridget Cooke. “Then this opportunity arose for them to apply for Head Start funding (and it) required them to partner with a community organization.”

Adelante leaders themselves have been wanting to expand their program, although they weren’t looking to expand to Hillsboro, Cooke said.

The move is an “opportunity to empower and reach more families,” said Early Childhood Education Director Francisca Perez.

Perez, who has worked at Adelante for a dozen years, said she’s excited about the expanded outreach opportunities. As the program’s director, she said, she can concentrate on recruiting families to the program.

Many of the women served by Adelante’s adult education program live in Hillsboro, Perez said, so the location will be closer for them.

In addition, said Marelis Ramirez, Adelante’s new adult education director, there will now be room for up to 45 women and their children to enter the program.

The increase in participants will be matched by an increase in costs, largely due to a need for eight more staff members, said Cooke. “These are little little kids so it’s one adult to every four kids and we’re committed to paying a decent salary,” she said. Cooke.

The women in the program, Ramirez said, attend classes five days a week, six hours each day, learning English language development, math and grammar.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the women learn leadership, self-esteem, conflict resolution and parenting skills, Ramirez said.

Alongside all that, the women bring their children with them and the children learn skills that will help them be kindergarten-ready.

A couple of times each week, the women and children all get toghter for group activities, from music and movement to nutrition classes, to reading or simply playing together.

“Having the moms and kids in the same environment is just transformational,” Cooke said.

Over the years, Perez said, she has seen many success stories of women who go through the Adelante Mujeres adult education program.

“You can see the transformation in three of four months,” Perez said.

“When I see women who feel like that, I (also see) the change in the children,” she added.

One woman now owns a house-cleaning company.

“I feel like they are free, transformed,” Perez added, armed with the skills and confidence they need to move forward and be successful.

Standing in what will become the program’s classrooms this fall, Ramirez and Perez both have a sparkle in their eyes and a smile on their faces, ready for a new space and a new challenge.

Perez said Adelante is currently recruiting women for the adult education classes that will begin Sept. 21.

“When you get in the right place, you can do it,” Ramirez said of the women who might be wondering whether they could handle the program.

The same certainly is true of Adelante Mujeres’ new digs.

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