Mrs. Nancy Berla has been volunteering at Running Brook Elementary in Columbia, Maryland, since she established the FACTS (Families and Community Together with School) Program in June 1994, when her grandchildren were students. The goal of FACTS is to enhance school readiness for children ages three through four, improve student performance and attendance, increase family involvement at the school, provide greater support for academic and social needs of children, and strengthen the family-community-school partnership.
The program began as a summer program for low-income children and has expanded to involve parent workshops, a low-income pre-school program, English classes for parents with limited proficiency, and a month-long summer program for students in grades one through three working below grade level. Using foundation grants, Mrs. Berla also made $200 "mini-grants" available through the FACTS program in an effort to encourage faculty and school staff to undertake activities which will increase or strengthen family and community involvement. FACTS volunteers also provide child care during school sponsored events.
FACTS has about 40 volunteers involved in the school, including parents, community members and business partnerships. They have improved parent involvement, translated school forms into Spanish, helped several parents with their English and increased overall academic performance in the school.
The program has received funds from the Maryland State Department of Education, Baltimore Gas and Electric Corporation, the Columbia Foundation, the United Way of Central Maryland, the FreddieMac Foundation, and the Howard County Arts Council. Facets of her program are now being replicated at other schools throughout the district.