Family Voices Program

by Marian Slaughter

During a Family Voices International Day Meal (CUE, 2012)

The Family Voices (FV) Mentor-Tutoring program arose out of more than five years of conversations between African- American families living in the south side of Madison and faculty and staff of UW-Madison’s School of Human Ecology.  While many ideas for community improvement were identified through these extensive conversations, the families felt supporting the academic performance of the community’s children through the use of tutors would be a powerful place to begin. Since 2006, FV has provided tutoring on Saturdays for African American children of South Madison in a variety of venues, including Lincoln Elementary School. In fall 2010, FV began a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (BGCDC).  The BGCDC/FV partnership is strengthening the program’s foundation and its ability to continue developing and implementing a culturally relevant Saturday morning mentor-tutor-enrichment program for students in grades K-8 with strong parent engagement and with a focus on African American families and mentor-tutors.

Through the rich networks of community-based research projects and researchers, Dr. Boyd Rossing (emeritus), the Principal Investigator of the Family Voices program, learned about CUE, its mission to encourage and support community-based research and the possibility of accessing resources that would assist the Family Voices program increase its capacity to serve its targeted population.  The timing of CUE support could have not been more beneficial! Beginning in the summer of 2011, CUE began assisting the program and BGCDC in three important ways.  First, a CUE staff member supported Family Voices with program administration and development, documentation and implementation support.  Second, in conjunction with the School of Human Ecology, CUE staff developed curriculum and taught a pilot professional development course for the  undergraduates serving as mentor-tutors volunteers. This for-credit course was conducted at the BGCDC on alternating Saturdays during the spring 2012 semester.  Third, UW students participating in CUE-funded courses through the Interdisciplinary Studies department that grew out of the CUE pilot were able to gain important community-based research experience by conducting selected inquiries each semester which facilitated FV program development and improvement.

During the 2012-2013 year, Family Voices anticipates increasing the participation of K-8 students while focusing on developing more parent involvement activities and sharpening its curriculum and instructional practices.  While continuing to support program development, the work of the CUE staff member will shift to from program administration and implementation to the work of program evaluation and documentation of the FV program’s historical evolution. ■

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