A few years ago, Margarita Cervantez was having some challenges with her children and that’s how a friend referred her to Partners For Peace. She took the Loving Solutions® course and she was so inspired that she went on to sign up for the Parent Project® right after. "The first thing I learned was it was not just my kids that needed to change,” Margarita said. “My parenting style was not what I had thought; my intentions were good, but my actions were not.” It was in these classes that she realized two things that had changed her for the better. She realized that she needed to make changes to her expectations for her young children, thus had to adjust her own behavior. The second teaching moment was to realize the need for a support system. For the first time, she was able to open up to others about her own issues and struggles as a single parent trying to raise her children. She felt supported and understood. So naturally, she wanted to pay it forward and become a certified facilitator herself and went through the 40-hour training. She is now certified to teach both courses. "For me, teaching these classes is a constant reminder of the things I should be doing as a parent and the things to try and avoid,” she shared. “I tell them in the class we will learn positive ways to discipline kids that are proven to be effective. "Margarita is one more reason why Partners For Peace is such a success. Thank you for all you do and for sharing your story to add that extra ingredient of relatability with our families.
What makes a good facilitator for Partners For Peace? Going through a rigorous training? Or, perhaps being a client who wants to give back by going through the training to become a facilitator and relate to the clients.
This is exactly what happened with Joyce Ponton, a childcare counselor and residential services assistant for Santa Lucia Girls Group Home.
But for Joyce, her first contact with Partners For Peace was not pleasant; she was court ordered to attend the Parent Project because of her younger son who had landed in juvenile hall.
“As most parents, my reaction was that I knew what to do and no program or workshop would teach me otherwise,” she said. Joyce has three children and one foster child. She did what was right with all of them, but there was something different about the younger one. He was in and out of the system.
So as she took the parenting classes, she learned how to navigate being a parent of a ‘strong-willed’ child and to help connect with him in a firm way. She learned the tools to work with him in a different way.
“My facilitators, Dawn and Teresa, saw something in me and approached me about taking the training to become a facilitator myself,” she said.
Joyce did not only take the training for the Parent Project, she also became certified to teach Loving Solutions. This is something she is really proud of and has done for three years.
“I’ve seen it work with me and with others,” she said. “I am able to make that connection with these parents and that ads credibility to my teachings.” She is a success story and other parents in her community notice the difference in her and in her younger son.
In addition, Joyce is the only facilitator to teach Parent Project and Loving Solutions in Monterey County Jails.
“I am very proud to be the first one to offer these classes inside the jails,” she shares. “The inmates are so receptive and so thirsty for information and it is my pleasure to be there as that someone they need to understand them.”
Husband and wife team, Myrna Herrera and Brian Wood, are star facilitators for Partners For Peace. They are certified to train in Loving Solutions Program, the Parent Project Program, but it is the Strengthening Families Program that keeps them both really busy with families and youth alike. Brian joined Myrna in this venture in 2012 when he found the workshops to be beneficial to the families involved. He was inspired to get his certifications and that’s how this amazing duo began. “I really hope that as the concept of parenting classes becomes part of our culture, that all families take advantage of this opportunity to have evidence based tools in their parenting tool box,” said Myrna.“We are a blended family with a total of three adult children: my daughter and son, and Brian’s son. They all have college degrees and contribute to society with their work. We both understand the challenges of raising children, and specially teenagers in a different way and time than we were raised, and me being a Mexican national, and raising biracial, bicultural children.”Myrna came to P4P in 2010 when Kathy Bauer became the Executive Director. They found Strengthening Families Program to be beneficial to parents and youth because it allows time for free expression without fear or conflict.Most classes have been offered at night to make it easier for families to commit, thus Brian became a bit concerned for Myrna’s safety being out late at night. As a result, he began to attend classes with her and to assist her and other facilitators and the families while he was there. He got his trainer certificate in 2012 and they have been teaching together since.“The team pulled him in as he had already done much to be part of the family,” Myrna said. “His calm and male tech engineer-focus demeanor was an asset to the teen aspect of the program, especially for those who might lack a male figure at home.”For Myrna, becoming a facilitator became a passion. She remembers her mom’s frustration when she could not handle a rebellious child and said ‘there is no school for parenting!’ She took that to heart later on in her life by becoming a Parent Educator. Her husband Brian is a Web Developer. For them, helping families and youth is a calling.As they facilitate from home via zoom, they support each other in the three sessions. The Spanish-speaking parents really enjoy Brian’s effort with the language, and, in general, admit Myrna, “having us teaching as a couple gives them a window of who we are as people, since they have to share their family situation with us - I think it improves the rapport process.”Partners For Peace is proud to have facilitators who lead with professionalism and heart.
Years ago, Partners for Peace helped Esmeralda Muñoz Ramos to become a better parent to her strong willed child. She started as a parent taking the parent courses and was then given the opportunity to help other parents in her community to learn these valuable skills by becoming a Facilitator herself. “My family is a living testament that they work. What a great opportunity given to us free of charge. We are so fortunate,” she shared. According to Esmeralda, parents can expect to see positive changes in their children's behavior and in their own behavior. There is a group of other parents that can relate to the difficulties of raising a strong-willed child.“I love knowing that families who take the parent courses will gain valuable skills that will make their lives better,” she added.
Teresa Guzman and Dawn Allen met about eight years ago while training for the Parent Project®. They hit it off right away and found comfort in the friendship they quickly developed. Once they began working as facilitators for Partners For Peace, they found an even deeper connection – they complimented each other in the delivery of the curriculum.
“We bring different strengths to the table and we bounce off of each other in an effective way,” said Dawn.
“I respect her 1000%,” said Teresa. “She is so from the heart; such a giving person.”
These ladies come from different backgrounds and this is what sets them apart, but at the same time, ads an extra ingredient into the effectiveness of their instruction with the Parent Project®.
Teresa is a Community Liaison for Salinas Union High School District. She has worked there for 18 years and she loves her role! She was asked by the District to take the Strengthening Families Program training, and that is how she became acquainted with Partners For Peace. She has six children, 10 grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Dawn is a Probation Services Manager for Monterey County. She is in charge of eight different units and has worked as a Probation Officer for 22 years. As life has it, she had to become the parent and the care taker for her siblings due to instability at home. She is the oldest of five.
“During the time that I was going through family transitions, I was taking the training to become a facilitator,” Dawn said. “What was so nice about it was that, what I was learning, I was able to implement in my own home.”
Some of the families come to the program on their own, while others are referred by the courts. When they hear Dawn introduce herself, parents are apprehensive and express their dislike for Probation Officers. But Dawn and Teresa make it clear from the start: they are facilitating the classes because they care and want to be there to help. Soon enough, families warm up to them both and develop a trust in them and in the Parent Project curriculum.
“These parents are not used to saying ‘I love you’ to their children,” Dawn shares. “Once they start implementing this simple action and see how it works with their children, they open up to try other things.”
This power duo is making a huge difference in the lives of families in Monterey County. The combination of education and probation expertise provides for successful outcomes that continue beyond the 10 weeks, and transcend into the next generations.
“I tell parents to sign up. It’s worth it and now that it’s online, it’s easier and faster,” recommends Teresa. “You will find that the staff at Partners For Peace are amazing, like a family that you can rely on. They are professional, respectful, caring, and I am proud to be deeply connected to them.”
Both Teresa and Dawn agree that the Parent Project® help make better parents; they feel this program is transformational and brings out the best version in each of the parents that go through it.