Learning to Read and Write at Aurora Community Connection

AUGUST 13, 2018–Every so often, we like to post an uplifting story from one of our 29 Member Centers to bring hope and support to family development workers and caregivers in Colorado. This week, we’re in Aurora, a dense suburb east of downtown Denver. In the late 1970s and 80s, Aurora was the fastest growing municipality in the United States and today is the 54th most populous city in the US. The racial makeup of the city is 61.1{5174c02ae8af42f0163c0bde243aeca1ac9f4d91a19005bb7e698c1ed57806ea} White, 15.7{5174c02ae8af42f0163c0bde243aeca1ac9f4d91a19005bb7e698c1ed57806ea} African American, 4.9{5174c02ae8af42f0163c0bde243aeca1ac9f4d91a19005bb7e698c1ed57806ea} Asian and 28.7{5174c02ae8af42f0163c0bde243aeca1ac9f4d91a19005bb7e698c1ed57806ea} Hispanic or Latino. Aurora also houses a sizeable refugee population, with about 30,000 Ethiopians and Eritreans living in the Denver-Aurora area. Because of this large and diverse population, there are a lot of needs within families and communities that the local government does not have the capacity to address. That’s where FRCA Member Aurora Community Connection (ACC) Family Resource Center comes in.

ACC was founded in 2007 in order to address a gap in services for families in north Aurora. ACC is open to all families, but emphasizes support for low-income families who are marginalized by language and culture. A core value that distinguishes ACC from other non-profits is a commitment to strategically leverage community resources through partnerships and engaging the talents of community residents. ACC staff have cultivated a strong degree of trust with local residents, which contributes to a particularly successful approach to community outreach. As a result, groups such as Aurora Public Schools, Aurora Mental Health, Cooking Matters and the City of Aurora turn to ACC to connect program resources to families in Aurora. A recent story of success within these programs center around two girls who were struggling with reading and writing at their age levels.

Illeana*, age five, began in the ACC tutoring program last summer without a firm grasp of letter recognition in either Spanish or English. Quiet and determined, Illeana worked closely with one of the center’s bilingual youth tutors and slowly mastered the letters of the alphabet through repeated and varied practice. She is now ready to start kindergarten at the expected level of learning for children her age.

Beatrice, age ten, began the tutoring program totally apathetic about reading and writing. She was clear about her reluctance to show any enthusiasm for program activities, and was easily distracted and off task. However, slowly and surely, thanks to her repeated pairing with a particularly engaging youth tutor, Beatrice began to take pleasure in the act of reading for its own sake. She realized there is a whole world of books in ACC’s program library she could connect with on a personal level. These connections were the spark that helped Beatrice to move from short picture books to increasingly complex chapter books. Beatrice comes from a difficult family situation, and told center staff that she felt very welcome and comfortable in the program. Towards the end, she even started coming for tutoring every single day!

Thanks to the wonderful family development workers at Aurora Community Connection, these two young girls are now thriving in their education and will feel the positive impacts of the family resource center for years to come. FRCA hopes that you will find inspiration in these positive stories and continue to work hard to change the trajectory for families around Colorado.

To learn more about Aurora Community Connection, visit their website at

If you would like to submit your own success story, please contact Erin Osovets at [email protected].

*names have been changed

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Life takes unexpected turns, but Family Resource Centers provide help and support

JULY 16, 2018 – In my twenties, I was blessed to marry my high-school best friend and longtime sweetheart, Ryan. We were an average couple, like many of you, both working on careers while building our life together.  Life had its ups and downs, but it was good, we were a team. It was the little things in life that we both enjoyed, dinner with our families and attending church on Sundays.

But all of that changed in the summer of 2012 when unexpectedly, Ryan passed away in a motorcycle accident. My life changed instantly. Without him, I felt I had nothing. Within weeks with the loss of a second income, coupled with despair, I found myself homeless. Although loved ones tried to reach out to me, depression, addiction, grief and worst of all hopelessness had me in its grip. For three years I struggled. But then things got worse, I lost my only brother to suicide and then my grandad passed away shortly after.

It was around this time that I found out that I was 27 weeks pregnant. Which absolutely terrified me. There was no way I could bring a child into my mess.  I was terrified for the life of my unborn child as well as the uncertainty of how I would provide for this little baby.  But I made the decision that my child’s life would be a blessing and not a burden, regardless of what I needed to do to change.

I moved in with my mother until I got on my feet. I started eating well, stopped smoking, and maintained my sobriety. I also began going to the library and reading up on all things parenting.  With support and encouragement from family and friends around me, on August 25th 2015, Robert Aurik came into the world at 8 lb. 15 oz. He was a perfectly healthy and beautiful son named after my father in law.

I found out about WIC from a friend.  WIC was the first step in my transition to healthy parenting. I learned about breastfeeding and made a goal to nurse for the first year which helped me stay on track with my sobriety. I was also given the referral to Catholic Charities of Pueblo.

In the spring of 2016 I begin participating in their home visitation program, Parents As Teachers. I quickly found out there were many other programs that I could participate in.  I also started working with a Family Development Worker in the Family Resource Center Program. Alex was able to help me assess my family’s needs, make goals and start focusing on what I could do immediately to change the future of my family. He also informed me of a job opening within Catholic Charities with the HIPPY team. Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters otherwise known as HIPPY.  I applied and a few weeks later I got the exciting news that I was hired!  This meant I could start to provide for Aurik on my own and continue to work on my goals.

The work I do with HIPPY has helped me develop my professional skills as well as encourage me personally. With firsthand knowledge of many of the Catholic Charities programs, I am able to inform the families I see about the great programs we have to offer. I truly love the work I do: networking, assisting families and serving the community.

In the spring of 2018, I am completing my second year as a HIPPY home visitor.  I am now able to pay off the remaining balance of my student loans and I will have money to start my journey towards an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. I have also worked hard and will then be debt-free. This has allowed me to start saving for a down payment on a home!  I’m building a life again for myself and my son.

Most recently I enrolled in the Family Leadership Training Institute program. Each FLTI participant gets the opportunity to work on a community project of their choosing. My project is HOPE, Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement. The project goal is to empower and employ homeless individuals, connect them with community resources and services that are already in place, and beautify our city in the process.

My life has been very different after participating in programs and goal setting at the Family Resource Center and the other programs of Catholic Charities.  Life is full of possibility once again. I have the skills necessary to take care of my son and myself. Additionally, I know where to turn if I need help. I am providing an environment that Aurik is thriving in. I have the respect of my family, coworkers, and people in my community and myself. My life now is filled with hope and happiness.  My experiences have shaped me, but do not define me.

The work at Family Resource Centers is important!  Connecting with families in their time of need is powerful and is life-changing.  It is the little acts of kindness, the encouraging words, the information and resources you share with families that add up and leave our world a little better at the end of each day.  Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.”

– Tamra F.

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