Partnership Aims at Strengthening Houston Families

The first 100 parents and children graduated from a six-week interactive course, aimed at strengthening family ties.

Dozens of parents now have the tools to better communicate and interact with their children, following a six-week interactive course taught by Collaborative for Children Parent Educators.

The initiative was made possible by a partnership between Toyota Family Learning, the National Center for Families Learning, Houston Community College, the Houston Public Library, and Collaborative for Children. Houston was selected as one of five cities to receive a three-year, $175,000 grant to kick-off the program. More than 250 cities applies to be part of the initiative. Houston joins Providence, R.I.; Bronx N.Y.; Lincoln, Neb.; and San Pedro, Calif. in this recently launched parenting effort.


Collaborative for Children President and CEO Carol S. Shattuck congratulates the graduates on their dedication to the program.

For six weeks, parents attended courses taught at Carnegie Neighborhood Library and McCrane-Kashmere Gardens Neighborhood Library. Classes were taught in English and Spanish by Collaborative for Children Parents Educators Dawn Johnson and Claudia Zelaya, respectively.

During the program, families set goals and took steps to complete them. Parents, along with their children, participated in hands-on learning activities, college readiness lessons and learned ways to use technology for educational purposes. After successfully completing the program, parents received an electronic tablet to be used as an interactive tool at home.

In an awards ceremony June 10 at the HPL Central Library in Downtown, parents shared the impact the program had on them. “I feel like I’ve become a better mom,” Anai Cruz said. “It’s a great program. It’s given us tools to become better parents.”

Angela Beltran admits the classes were eye-opening for her, as well as her children. “The program is fabulous because it teaches children that parents can be stressed, too,” Beltran said. “I would recommend to anyone to not miss this program. It helps us understand when we did something wrong.”


HPL Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, NCFL President and Founder Sharon Darling, Toyota VP of Marketing Brent Hillyer, and Collaborative for Children VP of Programs & Collaboration Development Sul Ross congratulate a graduating family.

In a survey, an overwhelming 98 percent of parents said they are now more confident in their parenting skills, and every single parent responded they are using at least two of the skills they learned in the classes.

Parents were commended for their enthusiasm to learn more material to help enrich their families. “In the face of real obstacles in the education landscape, these local graduates exemplify an emerging constant – families learning together is a major key to success,” Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson said.

Parents who took part in this year’s program hope more families will take advantage of this opportunity. Larry and Shyrl Potts are recommending the program to everyone they know. “I do tell my friends if they have another program, to sign up,” Shyrl Potts said. “It’s enriched our lives. This program has been a success and I love it.”

The Family Learning Program will return in the fall at McCrane-Kashmere Gardens Neighborhood Library, then in the spring at Carnegie Neighborhood Library.


Collaborative for Children Parent Educators Dawn Johnson and Claudia Zelaya taught the weekly courses at McCrane-Kashmere Gardens Neighborhood Library and Carnegie Neighborhood Library, respectively.


Parents participate in a hand-on learning activity.

Parent sharing(2)

Group discussions allowed parents to learn from one another.

Grateful parent(2)

A parent thanks instructor Dawn Johnson.


We Bid Farewell to Longtime Committee Chair, Supporter

Collaborative for Children thanks Dee Dee Guzman for all her hard work.

Collaborative for Children thanks Dee Dee Guzman for all her hard work.

Collaborative for Children said goodbye to devoted advocate Dee Dee Guzman, who is leaving Texas. Over the years, she worked tirelessly to help in our mission to improve the quality of early education.

Her work with Collaborative for Children dates back to the 1990s, when the organization was named “Initiatives with Children.” Guzman is credited with helping create Collaborative for Children’s Early Childhood Education Industry Committee and serving as chair since 2006. The committee aims at helping improve the early education industry, and is made up of education professionals from a number of agencies, including the Houston Independent School District and Head Start. The group helps identify gaps and works to close in early education.

During a surprise reception, Collaborative for Children staff shared their fondest memories of Guzman. “She set an example in her company on what needs to be done for families and for children,” Collaborative for Children President and CEO Carol S. Shattuck said. “She is a passionate advocate for early childhood education.”

Guzman reflected on a specific moment that impacted her desire to advocate for quality early childhood education. While visiting a child care center several years ago, Guzman said she was shocked by the lack of resources available at the center.

Guzman helped create our Early Childhood education Industry Committee.

Guzman helped create our Early Childhood Education Industry Committee.

“I had never seen a center lacking so much,” Guzman said. “Children were alone, sitting in high chairs, watching TV. There was nothing else. I was shocked there was no caregiver interacting with the children. They just though it was OK. It made me understand what we were fighting for or fighting against.”

Guzman was instrumental in an initiative in 2013 to provide free in-service training to pre-K teachers. She also helped create, an online resource site for early educators in the Texas Gulf Coast. The site allows child care administrators to address any human resources needs they may have.

Collaborative for Children commended Guzman for her ability to use her professional corporate skills with her passion to fight for early education. “The combination of passion for children and the business world has been so helpful to us,” Collaborative for Children Vice President of Programs & Collaboration Development Sul Ross said.

Guzman said she draws some of her inspiration to help the public from her former position in the workforce. “I do think there’s a corporate social responsibility,” she said. “I think the corporations of the world have a responsibility to raise everyone around them. There is a role for corporations to do good.”

Guzman joined Collaborative for Children in 1996.

Guzman joined Collaborative for Children in 1996.

Another source of motivation for Guzman is our own President and CEO, Carol S. Shattuck. “Carol does a really amazing job at pulling together this cause,” Guzman said. “Early education is a very complicated issue. She has perfectly walked that tight rope and has been able to move that complicated ball of issues on a very steep mountain—with very incredible determination. She’s an incredible leader and incredibly smart.”

Guzman is moving to Atlanta, where she will reside with her husband and three teenage boys.