Sitting at the tables at which their children might have eaten six hours prior, parents talk in pairs, trios, and foursomes throughout the Starkey Elementary cafeteria. Art projects of fictional characters line the windows—Minnie Mouse, the Lorax, Harry Potter, and others—watching over the parents.
Happily standing in the front of the 25 parents is Brent Davis, Children’s Pastor of Impact Christian Fellowship in Kerrville.
“Now which of these is true and remarkable about how people drink their morning tea in Argentina?” Brent quizzes the clustered crowd, “They make it last at least an hour, they share the same cup and spoon, or they use one-ounce cups because of the potency?” Parents choose their answer by raising their hands.
The answer is that they share the same cup and spoon. Only four hands were raised for that choice.
Brent is introducing tonight’s class on Raising Highly Capable Kids, one of the class facilitators alongside Marjorie Dixon, Amanda Martin, Krista Copeland, and Pam Bowyer. The point of the quiz (about 10 questions on gestures and traditions in foreign countries) is to consider social norms and how, when we aren’t raised to understand them, they might as well be foreign.
From the hallway occasionally echo screams and laughter: reminders of the reason these parents are all here, to help their children grow into the best people they could be—to be difference-makers. Volunteer childcare workers from the H. E. Butt Foundation, Impact Christian Fellowship, Starkey Elementary, and Talley Elementary watch the kids while the parents are in class.
Tonight’s class is on social competency, titled, “Session Nine: Like Facebook, Only Better.”
After the intro, the other leaders of the class rotate in leading interactive discussion, starting with a hypothetical case study of a teenage girl’s increasingly antisocial behavior, and eventually transitioning into parents expressing and relating their experiences and goals in raising their children.
Brent says that bringing this class to Kerrville is part of a mission to change culture for the better on a larger scale.
“If changes only happen Sunday at church, it’s not gonna transform the culture,” he says. “In order to transform the culture, change has to happen at homes first.”
Cary Hendricks and the LLFC team brought the class to Kerrville at a Ministerial Alliance meeting, a quarterly meeting of local church leaders and school administrators at Tivy High School.
The class, started by nonprofit Rezilient Kidz, immediately appealed to the KISD superintendent, Mark Foust.
Two years ago, Cary and the LLFC team also helped lead initiatives to begin the class with House of Faith, a non-denominational youth and family ministry, in San Angelo. The 11-week class is still held there every semester.
Cary says, “The Foundation’s mission talks about going deeper with people we already have relationships with, and this felt like a way to help organizations go deeper with their people.”
The friendly, comfortable, and trusting atmosphere of the evening was built before class even started. All the parents and their children arrived at 5:30 p.m. for dinner together, prepared and served by Sozo Home. Parents laugh at each other’s anecdotes, listen to each other thoughtfully, and nod to one another in support.
A third of the crowd walks out at 6 p.m. They’re Spanish-speakers going to the same class held next-door in their preferred language.
The class is always offered as a bilingual program according to the Rezilient Kidz website. According to Brent, the class targets low-resource communities, but it isn’t just people in low-resource communities who want and need to become better parents.
“The impact this can have on our community is huge,” Brent says, “if we empower parents.”
So the parents come to school. The class looks fun. The food looks good. Everyone seems to be having a good time, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t serious business and important learning. Rezilient Kidz says children of the people who have gone through the program noticeably and positively change their behavior.
“[The class] just fits so well with who we are as an organization,” Cary says. “It fits with the value of healthy children and families.”
At 7 p.m., class is dismissed. From down the hall, kids make way to the cafeteria, bringing the screams and laughter of youth with them. Parents bid goodbye to fellow classmates, as their children rush in and say goodbye much more loudly to their friends. Parents and children reunite to go home as families again, and the cafeteria slowly empties of both the craziness and comfort it just hosted, leaving only the Lorax and the other characters in the windows.
The craziness and comfort go on to the families’ homes—families who are more empowered to become the agents of change in their community, starting with the kids.