Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Learned, explored, supported: How one family grew with Project Enlightenment

Posted September 6, 2015

Jennifer Zarins is an unabashed fan of Project Enlightenment.

Not only have her children benefited from the programs and demonstration preschool at the early childhood education and intervention program that's part of Wake County Public School System. She also grew as a parent, taking advantage of the programs, workshops and counseling offered through the center, which serves families with children from birth through kindergarten.

Project Enlightenment celebrates the new school year and its work from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, during its annual Project Palooza. The event features free games and activities for young children and their families. It's a fun, low-key event that my younger daughter has really enjoyed the last couple of years.

For Zarins, a former Wake County teacher, Project Enlightenment has given her new tools for her parenting toolbox. Parenting can be a tough job, but the experts at Project Enlightenment helped walk Zarins through those early years with her twins, who entered kindergarten this fall.

"It has given my children strategies for problem solving, developing their own voice and handling strong feelings," she said. "And it connected me with a network of support/resources that I continue to rely on. Every staff member I've encountered has modeled best-practices and shared their expertise in such a collaborative and supportive way, while keeping children at the center of everything they do."

Her twins attended the center's demonstration preschool last year. Zarins volunteered regularly in the classes; attended classroom observations and the discussions that followed; took advantage of parent workshops for preschool parents and the public; and used the parent counseling service several times.

She also spent time in the Parent-Teacher Resource Center, which, as I've written before, is open to the public, to check out reading material for both herself and her kids and use the production area for crafts and other items.

"I experienced. I learned. I explored. I was supported," she tells me. "Which is exactly what happened for my children each day in the Demonstration Preschool classroom."

I chatted a bit more with Zarins by email. Here's our Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: Tell us about yourself and how you first were introduced to Project Enlightenment?

Jennifer Zarins: As a Wake County Public School System elementary teacher, I attended several teacher workshops at Project Enlightenment and knew about their teacher/parent consultation service. While staying home with my young children, I heard rave reviews from several friends who'd worked with Project Enlightenment. So when my twins were old enough to apply to the Demonstration Preschool Classroom, I checked it out and was sold! We were lucky enough to be placed there last year and I took advantage of every program Project Enlightenment offered - Parent workshops, parent counseling, the production area and the Parent Teacher Resource Center, I tried it all! And I plan to continue now that my kids are in kindergarten.

GAM: What did your kids gain from being involved in the demonstration preschool?

JZ: The most important things they learned were problem solving strategies and social-emotional skills - things like friendship and communication skills, self-monitoring, handling strong feelings and working through problems.

GAM: How did it help prepare them for kindergarten?

JZ: My kids are more resilient, confident and flexible. They see themselves as learners and as a valuable part of their school family.

GAM: What did you gain as a parent involved at Project Enlightenment?

JZ: I am a more conscious, intentional parent and I've got a network of support when the inevitable parenting challenges arise.

GAM: Project Palooza is this weekend, which will serve as an introduction for some to Project Enlightenment. So many people, I think, aren't aware of all of the center's services. It's really open to anybody with young children. What do you want people to know about it?

JZ: Project Enlightenment can benefit anyone who works or lives with young children! Whether you're in crisis, wanting a few new ideas, or somewhere in between, there are many ways Project Enlightenment can help.

Project Enlightenment's website has more information about all of the programs and resources available to parents, including a TalkLine where parents can call with questions and issues.

Parents also can learn more during Project Palooza. The event will take place at the center, which is located at 501 S. Boylan Ave., near downtown Raleigh, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday.

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.


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