Organizations pair up to learn about resources

Groups share expertise, brainstorm ways to aid community, each other

October 07, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun reporter

The pairs faced each other, with clipboards and pens in hand, ready for the first round.

They would have minutes to quiz each other and jot down notes, before moving on to the next person. Who are you? What organization do you represent? Whom do you serve?

Ready. Set. Go.

Representatives from a mix of agencies, organizations and programs were on a mission to get to know each other.

The hodgepodge of individuals who usually spend their days helping Carroll County residents in such areas as literacy, violence prevention, employment or education were getting some help of their own last week, and discovering the resources that might assist them in their jobs, and thus in better serving the community.

"What we're about today is building some relationships with you," said Karen Ganjon, director of minority achievement and intervention programs for the school system.

The first-time event was planned at the suggestion of the system's Council for Education That is Multicultural, Ganjon said. The council plans to meet Tuesday.

The council of about 40 community leaders, educators and parents aims to ensure that education is equitable to all students, she said, and assesses how well their needs and their families' needs are being addressed. It also monitors multicultural education in schools countywide.

A snapshot of the school system reveals its increasing diversity.

In the 2006-2007 school year, the number of African-American, Hispanic and Native American students jumped more than 50 percent over the past decade -- the latter two by more than 150 percent, said Peg Kulow, the system's supervisor of intervention services.

This year, the nearly 300 English language learners in the system represent 40 countries, she said.

About 14 percent of elementary school children qualified for free and reduced-price meals, she added, while about 9 percent qualified in the high schools.

Multicultural education is "about an approach to make sure and certain that all children succeed," Ganjon said.

Rallying resources

To that end, the council also helps rally resources -- a service that tied into last week's forum.

"Not many people know what we do," said Liana Cancel, an English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher with the school system. "And we don't know what other people do as well."

By bringing together many agencies -- the school system and Judy Center Partnership, the county Literacy Council and the Department of Recreation and Parks, the Health Department and the Rape Crisis Intervention Service, to name a few -- the forum sought to change that, giving Cancel and others a crash course in the myriad resources at their, and the public's, disposal.

The topic guiding their discussion: What could they offer Carroll County families -- and each other?

With that in mind, Cancel and JaDenna Jones sat down to swap information during the first of five conversation rounds.

Cancel described the interpreting and translation services the school system provides.

What languages do you work with? Jones asked.

"We have so many," Cancel replied. Spanish, French, German. Russian, Urdu, Punjabi.

Tobacco education

Jones then explained her role as a tobacco-education coordinator with the county Health Department, catering to public and home-schooled students. Schools, or school-related groups, can apply for money for such education, she said.

"That's great," Cancel said. "I think a lot of these things can be translated and interpreted and shared with our kids."

Interpreters might be able to help with home visits, too, she said.

Jones smiled.

"I'm so excited," she said. "I like this."

In another get-to-know-you session, Paula Hendricks seemed as pleased with the process.

Hendricks, who works with the Literacy Council and also with people learning English, was chatting with Amy Gilford of the Marriage Resource Center.

Gilford described the services the center provided, including classes for teens and adults, as part of an effort to build healthy families.

"I would like you to come and speak to our class," Hendricks said, referring to her ESOL students.

In turn, she added, she could hand out literature about the center to people she encounters who are dealing with marital problems.

"I really think we can work together," Hendricks said.

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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