WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Grace Place is a holistic family education center in Collier County, Florida and home to the Grace Place Family Literacy Model®. The Model is based on the organization’s Bright Beginnings program, developed over a fifteen-year history. Grace Place utilizes a multigenerational approach to mitigate and address the multigenerational cycle of poverty. Programming is targeted to work toward bridging the academic achievement gap evident between families in middle- or upper-income households with those in households whose incomes fall below these economic lines.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A graduate of Youngstown State University, Diane taught elementary and middle school and adult English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) evening classes. Experiencing the challenges that ESOL students encounter, she felt a calling to specialize in this field and pursued a Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Florida International University. While working on her degree, Diane studied Spanish in Costa Rica through a summer immersion program that helped to develop her communication skills and experience firsthand what many of her students face in acquiring a new language. Observing, reflecting, and experimenting, Diane created highly effective learning environments where her students and adults could succeed. In 1997, she was named the Collier County Elementary Teacher of the Year. As Diane began her own family, she realized the importance of parents being children’s first teachers and the value of community relationships and resources. Knowing the challenges that role presented, even as a highly educated woman, Diane began a journey towards creating a program that prepared parents to become life-long partners in their children’s educations.
The Grace Place Family Literacy Model® at Grace Place has helped me with everything in my life – especially with my self-esteem and the feeling that I actually could learn. I have never found this feeling in any other place. By learning language and life skills, I have learned how to be a better mom and teacher for my children.
The Grace Place Family Literacy Model® has an evidenced ripple effect. By educating the parent and the child together, it impacts the entire family. When families grow and become stronger through education, the community reaps benefits. That is what is so attractive about this model to me as a funder. It has the potential to make a global impact when replicated.
Since the first day in the Grace Place Family Literacy Model® program at Grace Place, I met other moms, who like me, had doubts and fears. I can remember very well that in each class Ms. Diane Ponton told us: “you are the best mom for your children, there is no one better than you for them” And little by little I began to feel special, special for my daughter, for my husband, and for myself. Grace Place became my family, I made very good friends in here, other mothers who like me, want to build a successful family.