By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
Seven graduates received their certificates Thursday night, but not with the customary rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
It was a celebration of the parents’ six-month journey with the Toyota bornlearning Academy at Berea Community School.
The academy works with parents and caregivers of children from prenatal to 5 years old on ways to turn everyday moments into learning opportunities.
Toyota representatives, including vice president of manufacturing Walter Odisho, attended the celebration.
The Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant opened in Georgetown 25 years ago, Odisho said, and his company wanted to find a way to make a difference in Kentucky for the next 25 years.
"The difference is you,” he said to the parents in the room. “You brighten the future of our youngest generation.”
Research shows that 72 percent of Kentucky children enter kindergarten unprepared. The bornlearning Academy was designed to give parents the tools to enhance their own child’s early learning, he said.
The bornlearning concept was created by the United Way and launched as a pilot project in 2010.
In November, Toyota awarded an $11,500 grant to Berea Community to open one of 10 bornlearning Academies across the state.
Parents attended the workshops once a month and met with the workshop facilitator Barb Mills, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University.
Families were served a free meal and childcare was provided while the parents attended the class.
Classes covered topics such as finding ways to learn ‘on the go’; increasing a child’s learning through sleep, eating well and doctor visits; discussing the science behind early learning; and learning ways to enhance brain development through talking with your child.
Parents also had the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and gain knowledge through each others personal experiences.
At the end of every workshop, parents walked away with new books and other prizes.
Berea College child and family studies professor Ellen Burke was a guest speaker for the graduation. She and her partner are raising two young children, she said.
"Say your child is a Camry, your child is an Avalon, your child is a Prius and your child is a Rav4,” Burke said to the parents while poking fun at the Toyota representatives in the room. “All cars can take us to the same place, but they all must be treated differently.”
Often times as parents, “we get hung up on things that don’t matter,” she said. “Take a breath and figure out what really matters.”
The best gift parents can give their child is “to take care of yourself,” she said. The attention parents give to their children when they are not frustrated or tired “is a different kind of gift.”
"Like your kids, play with them, laugh at yourself,” Burke said.
Parents like to think of ways to raise their children differently than their own parents, she said. “But don’t say what you don’t want to be; say what kind of parent you want to be. It’s much more powerful.”
The bornlearning Academy will be open for enrollment next year as well, said Diane Smith, Berea’s Family Resource & Youth Services Center director who was instrumental in securing the grant for the Academy.
To read a first-person account of each bornlearning workshop since November, visit www.richmondregister.com and type “bornlearning” into the search bar.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.