Martha Jeavons holds up a piece of paper and speaks to a group of mothers in fluent Spanish. Not all the moms in the room speak Spanish, though, so she switches effortlessly between Spanish and English. Her 15 years abroad in Latin America gave her the skills to do so.
She and her fellow Highland Park Presbyterian Church members are volunteering with a group of parents at Amelia Earhart Learning Center in West Dallas. Once a week, they gather with the moms for food, crafts, socializing, and ARK — Adults Relating to Kids, which is a parenting program, or rather, parent support group.
“A lot of people parent the way they were parented, and sometimes there’s a lot of absenteeism,” ARK executive director Jan Nelson said. “We decided we’ve got to get somebody to work with the parents.”
ARK began in churches, but its founders later decided to remove religious rhetoric in order to reach a wider audience with schools. Highland Park Presbyterian Church already had a partnership with Amelia Earhart when the school decided to institute the program.
“The folks there are just so missions-minded, both urban and international,” said Jeavons, who attends HPPC and works full-time for ARK. “It’s not hard finding people to get involved.”
After about half an hour grabbing snacks and making a new craft, the women gather to recite their covenant (which emphasizes love-based parenting) and watch a video on a particular parenting lesson. The group then discusses what they’ve learned.
“Even though I have parented two adult children, I’m still learning new things,” said Terina Taylor, who has one child at Amelia Earhart and acts as group facilitator. “It gives you a new perspective and a new way of parenting.”
The program follows the school year’s timeline so attendance is easier for parents. This is Amelia Earhart’s second year to participate, though other schools in the Pinkston High School feeder pattern are looking to institute it as well.
“It’s the way the community comes together,” Amelia Earhart parent and ARK participant Chelsea Manley said. “We may come from a different race, heritage, or religion, but we come together. You can express any concerns you have, and the lessons are all relatable.”
At the end of the school year, ARK holds a graduation ceremony for the parents to receive a certificate of completion. For some of the parents, it’s the first graduation they’ve ever experienced. But no matter what background, all the parents — and volunteers — value the connections made.
“I did the training in the summer and just fell in love with it,” HPPC member and volunteer Ashley Smith said. “It’s the ladies — I love getting to know them.”