Seeking success in Preble County

By Kelsey Kimbler -

CAMDEN — Last year, the Preble County Success Program launched at National Trail to help students succeed in the classroom by removing “non-cognitive barriers to learning.” This year, the program has expanded to all five school districts in Preble County.

Armed with a one-year grant to start a program modeled after Butler County’s Success program, Supervisor Cari Wynne has been trying to get this program cemented within the schools and spread awareness of what the program hopes to achieve.

Wynne explained, “We try to address any kind of problems or issues that student’s bring with them from home, that typically get in the way with them being able to focus and concentrate when they’re in the classroom.”

Such problems could include untreated medical issues, lack of food, lack of shelter, lack of glasses or other aids, and any other problems a child might have. “There is no need that we won’t address,” Wynne said.

She added, “All of those things could affect their ability to concentrate and focus on that classroom learning.”

The program is trying to address those issues, fix them, and better prepare students for a learning environment.

Preble County Success program meets with the family to determine what needs the children might have and then they decide on a plan of action. The program locates resources based on the type of needs. If a family has a lack of food, they might work with a local food bank to provide for the family.

Families are chosen for the program through referrals by the school system.

Wynne said, “We have long recognized the need for such a program in Preble County, but the key is always how we’re going to pay for it. We got an opportunity to apply for a grant, which we’ve received and is how the funding was made possible.”

Once the funds were available, it was a “no brainer” to start the program.

Wynne added, “For a long time we have been hearing that the school has been seeing families that the school want to see these kids succeed, but there are so many home issues that need to be addressed that get in the way of that. We knew we had that missing link, because there are a lot of teachers who are trying to help the families, but they are supposed to be about educating.”

The program is meant for families who need “extra support” and aims to help them “stand on their own two feet.”

The grant the program was awarded was a Healthy Buckeye Grant through Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which is a one year grant. The staff of Preble County Success all knew coming into the project that only one year was guaranteed.

There has been discussion of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services allowing for additional years of funding, so Preble County Success will apply for at least another year of funding.

Wynne added, “This program is all about community collaboration. We know it takes a village. The more people who are on board supporting families, the better. So we felt very strongly that we had to reach out to the community partners in Preble County, the other social service agencies, and anyone who might be interested in joining us and collaborating to make sure the best interest of families was served.”

Program Specialist Molly Gardner met with more than 20 local organizations (including businesses and churches) to see how the program can work with them to better community families. The program is seeking to understand what resources are available in the community, so they can inform the families in the program about what is already available to them.

Wynne said, “Some of our parents are parents who are not typically attending conferences or school meetings. A lot of times when you talk with them, it might be easy to say, ‘they don’t care,’ but that is not what we are finding out. It is more that, sometimes they feel a little intimidated, sometimes they didn’t have a great experience with school themselves. It is not about not caring, it is about a lot of factors.

“So what we try to do is build those relationships with parents. There are a lot of information and referral lines out there that can refer families to a food pantry, but what we have experienced is a lot of times that does not work. You have to get behind the scenes and build that relationship to see why that is not working.”

They then work with the school to make the meeting more accommodating for the parents’ need.

There is a liaison for the program in each school district. They are employed by the Butler County agency, but are housed in the school district they are representing. They are the ones who receive the student referrals from the schools.

The program does not provide direct services itself. Wynne explained, “It is all about building relationships with the families and getting to know them. All of our services are linking with other agencies that can push them forward.”

In Butler County, there is a program evaluation each year and it shows that the program makes a difference. Preble County’s program would like to show the same difference moving forward.

By the end of the school year, the program hopes to show “positive significant outcomes.” This proof will hopefully help the program secure funding for the future.

There has been “overwhelming” support from the community for this program.

“There are many people in this community who care and want to help families, just like we do,” Wynne said. “They have been so gracious about coming on board and wanting to work with us. I couldn’t be anymore pleased with that.”

She added, “We are so grateful for the support of the school districts and for the opportunity to have the ability to come to this county and to help families. We’re optimistic and we hope that we are here for many years to come.”

Preble County Success Program work to get donations for families in the program. This month they are asking for donations of all sizes of diapers, brand new socks and brand new underwear in all sizes. To donate items contact Molly Gardner at 937-336-3967 or Preble County Success Program is always accepting donations of personal hygiene items, cleaning items, and laundry detergent.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH