||Teens and parents
join together for a candlelight ceremony at the conclusion of
the Families in Action class at Eastern Allamakee Kee
High School in Lansing, IA. (Allamakee Journal photo)
by Diana King
"It was time well spent," says Karen Tenneson, reflecting
on the time she took to coordinate a grant proposal to bring
Families in Action training to her northeast Iowa community.
Decorah, Iowa, pop.10,000, is the regional service center for
a primarily agricultural area in transition as economic pressures
force people off the farm and into new jobs and living situations.
In their work with local teens, Tenneson, Luther College Upward
Bound Counseling Coordinator, and community leaders in nearby
counties saw many families struggling with issues related to
independence, discipline, problem-solving, emerging sexuality
and the risks of drugs and violence.
"I helped coordinate the proposal for an Iowa DECAT Grant
because I was familiar with the Active Parenting of Teens
program from my earlier work with another agency," explains
Tenneson. "Our director, Phyllis Gray, wanted to train our
Upward Bound leaders to work with teens and their parents and
we knew that community leaders in surrounding counties wanted
a joint parent-teen program too."
Tenneson received the grant and in September 2000, Active Parenting's
Training Director Susan Reed traveled to Decorah to train 14
professionals representing 8 organizations that serve a 15-county
area (Allamakee Substance Abuse Prevention, Clayton County Substance
Abuse Services, Helping Services for NE Iowa, Immanuel Lutheran
Church, Luther College Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound,
NE Iowa Empowerment and St. Mary's Elementary School).
"I was so impressed by the can-do spirit of the people from
these organizations. They weren't just talking about a good plan
to help parents and teens in their communities, they were actually
doing something about it!" says Reed.
Naturally, this diverse group of agencies is implementing Families
in Action in equally diverse ways. For example:
Luther College, Decorah - Tenneson is making plans for
the Summer 2001 Upward Bound program that brings students from
eight counties onto campus for a 6-week enrichment program. Twenty-five
teens will meet for three hours each week to participate in the
teen portion of the program. Their parents will participate in
mini-sessions during orientation and when they return to pick
up their teens. Luther College Upward Bound encourages teens
to stay in and excel in high school and set personal/career goals
that include higher education. "Families in Action
will help these teenagers learn communication and behavior skills
that will make a difference in their family life and community
relationships," Tenneson adds.
Eastern Allamakee Kee High School, Lansing - The high
school and two community service agencies joined together in
presenting a Families in Action program offered as two
five-hour workshops. Knowing it's difficult to get parents and
teens involved in after-school programs, health teacher Marlene
Duffy offered her students pizza, video rental coupons and a
grade incentive to encourage attendance. The adult class was
led by Barb Winters of Allamakee Substance Abuse Prevention.
Then to add a bit of entertainment value to the class, Kathy
Schwartzhoff, Helping Services of NE Iowa, developed a family
version of the popular TV game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"
complete with "lifelines." Ms. Duffy notes, "the
kids loved this." An inspirational candlelight ceremony
concluded the program.
St. Mary's Elementary School, Clayton County - Sister
Suzanne Gallagher, school principal, opened the Families in
Action program at St. Mary's to the entire community under
the auspices of the Safe Coalition-Iowa program that encourages
drug-free communities. Ten teenagers and 10 parents attended
the inaugural session.
The focus on "fun" and the variety of activities and
videos helped keep both teens and parents coming back for more.
Among the most successful activities was one in which both teens
and parents identified stressors in the lives of the other group.
Letters of encouragement were also a powerful tool for reopening
the lines of communication.
After teaching the first round of classes, leaders agreed that
the "program has something for everyone," says Tenneson,
"and it was flexible enough that it could be modified if
a group wanted to spend more time on certain issues."
For more information about Families in Action,
call 800-825-0060 or click on the link.
Reprinted from Leader
Copyright 2001 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.