Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

American Indian Center Teaches Kids, Helps Parents Stay Involved

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

American Indian Center Teaches Kids, Helps Parents Stay Involved

Article excerpt

Three longtime employees of the education arm of the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center last week were discussing why they put up with the controlled chaos of running a preschool at the site when a group of energetic children entered a nearby play area as if on cue.

"You hear those giggles outside?" said Kate Sinatra, an education coordinator at the center in Knoxville. "That's rewarding to see that."

The Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center, which opened in 1969, provides services to Native Americans and non-Native Americans of various age groups in locations around the region.

The center's Head Start and Early Head Start preschool programs give children through age 5 - who mostly come from at-risk families - a place to learn and develop social skills before they start kindergarten.

The center also provides support services for parents to assist with housing, obtaining GEDs, drivers licenses, scheduling doctor appointments and more.

"The key is, you can provide an excellent education for a child, but if they're not going home to a safe and stable home environment, a lot of that gets lost in translation," said Sue Buffton, director of early childhood education programs.

So the center tries to get parents involved in their children's activities and to volunteer in the classroom, kitchen or elsewhere, Ms. Buffton said.

On Wednesday, the center invited an important male figure in the lives of their students to spend a day at the school. The kids and their fathers, uncles and grandfathers ate breakfast together, then built gingerbread houses and participated in other activities.

David Azzolina, 34, of Brentwood, said he was pleased to see his 5-year-old son, Noah, going through a typical day and interacting with friends.

"I ask Noah questions like, 'How's life? How are your friends?' Some of the names that he had mentioned, I was able to see some of the other kids," Mr. Azzolina said. "The social interaction, I think, is so good for him at this age. …

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