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UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

June 15, 2000 Contact:Jeffron Boynés (312) 413-8702; jboynes@uic.edu


More than 250 Head Start parents were honored recently for their commitment to lifelong learning and education at the ninth annual recognition breakfast of the Family Start (FAST) Learning Center - a family literacy program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Head Start is a federal program that supports school readiness among low-income children and their families.

Hosted by the Chicago Department of Human Services and the UIC Center for Literacy, the event honored parents who have enrolled in the FAST center to develop their own skills (basic reading, GED preparation, computer training, career and education planning, English as a second language) and participate in family literacy programs to support their children's education and literacy development.

"Parent involvement in their children's education is essential, and the FAST program is providing the finest parent education in the city," said Timothy Shanahan, professor of education and director of the UIC Center for Literacy. "Parents in FAST expand their own literacy skills for the workplace, and they learn how to help their kids do well in school."

Shanahan, an internationally recognized reading researcher, has extensive experience with children in Head Start, children with special needs and children in inner-city schools. Along with guiding the Center for Literacy and FAST, he is codirector of Project FLAME, a family literacy program for Latino immigrants that is now used throughout the United States.

Joining Shanahan in praising the parents' progress toward literacy was keynote speaker Ray Vázquez, newly appointed commissioner of the Chicago Department of Human Services. Shanahan and Vázquez also gave special kudos to 32 Head Start parents for completing a year with Volunteers in Service to America, a community service program.

FAST instructor Shawntina Moore, who is from the Martin Luther King Community Center in Bronzeville, said the recognition breakfast boosted the Head Start parents' confidence and pride.

"Essentially, for many parents it marked a turning point," Moore said. "It was inspiring for them to see other parents striving for the same goals and achieving them." These achievements, Moore emphasized, serve as a reminder to both parents and staff why programs like FAST were founded.

In 1996, the Chicago Department of Human Services and the UIC Center for Literacy united to expand FAST programs and services. Since then, the partnership has become increasingly active, forming alliances to establish National Service Projects and develop the America Reads Head Start Tutor Program. Together, these projects serve nearly 500 Head Start parents in more than 120 Head Start and Child Care programs.

With 25,000 students, the University of Illinois at Chicago is the largest and most diverse university in the Chicago area. UIC is home to the largest medical school in the United States and is one of only 88 national Research I universities. Located just west of Chicago's Loop, UIC is a vital part of the educational, technological and cultural fabric of the area.


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