The Bright Futures program at Van-Far offers a great opportunity for community members and school officials to make a direct impact into the lives of district students and families.
This relationship will be strengthened with a free barbecue event free to the entire community from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7 at Tri-County Park in Vandalia. The event is sponsored by Bright Futures Van-Far, which is also partnering with OPAA Foods, County Market, “The Vandalia Leader”, and area churches.
The free barbecue will be offered as supplies last.
A swimming party follows for children from 7-9 p.m., which is sponsored by Gentle Healthy Smiles.
Those attending are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs or blankets.
“We’re grateful for everybody that’s helped (with this event),” said Bright Futures Van-Far Coordinator Kathy Allen.
Though the Van-Far R-I School District is still early on in its deployment of the Bright Futures program, it is already making a direct impact in the community.
Currently, there is a Facebook page called “Bright Futures Van-Far.”
Community members who “Like” the page can quickly learn of needs for students and families as posted by local Bright Futures administrators.
“We believe children cannot learn if basic human needs are not met and our goal is to meet the basic human needs of a child in 24 hours,” Allen said. “I want us as a community to endorse Bright Futures.”
In its purpose and vision, the program’s goal is to engage the community to then create a learning atmosphere enabling students and teachers to focus on education and achieving success. Through meeting needs, students are more likely to stay in school through graduation, have a higher degree of self-worth and confidence, and work to set/reach goals for their own futures.
This results in students growing up to be better neighbors, quality employees, and impactful leaders in their community.
Allen notes that the community already has so many important groups in place like social clubs, civic groups, area churches, and more.
What Bright Futures can do is help to educate those groups on what the needs are so that the community can work together to meet the needs of those throughout the district.
Earlier this year, Bright Futures started a “Lunch Buddies” program. Currently, more than 60 students have a lunch buddy.
“Our goal is for every kid to have one,” Allen noted. “We had a ton of positive feedback and had some say it changed their lives.”
Along with Allen, the Bright Futures Advisory Board includes Sheila Ennis, Cami Blackman, Rusty Strother, Melissa Gooch, Lois Curtis, Lisa Lovell, Robyn Jennings, Melissa Deimeke, Judy Hull, Brandie Gay, Helen McFarland, Angie Morris, Kelsy Fowler, Van-Far Jr./Sr. High School Principal Kim Pafford, Van-Far Elementary Principal Brian Hummell, and Van-Far Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hunter.
More about Bright Futures
Bright Futures USA is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing communities together to focus on the success of children. This grassroots movement uses the Bright Futures framework to engage businesses, human service agencies, faith-based organizations, and parent groups within communities to meet the needs of children so every child can be successful, now and in the future.
Audrain County was the first county to have all of its schools participating in the program.
Bright Futures originated in 2010 in Joplin, Mo. as it developed systems and structures that rapidly connected existing community resources with students and families in need through the school system. Initially, a grant from the Economic Security Corporation of Southwest Missouri funded a position within the schools to act as a liaison between the school and community groups.
Within the first year, unexpected and exciting results occurred. The dropout rate decreased, attendance increased, and student and staff morale improved. As the program evolved in Joplin, word spread. Several nearby districts expressed interest in applying the Bright Futures framework in their communities.
In February 2011, the non-profit organization Bright Futures USA was established to share the successful framework of Bright Futures Joplin. By the end of 2011, five affiliate communities were using the framework to effectively tackle poverty and student achievement in their communities. These initial five pilot communities were vital in the development of the supports that are now used for all other affiliate communities.
Today, Bright Futures is active in 53 communities throughout Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, and Alaska.