Family Center displacement shortsighted


To the Editor:

The Family Center at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School is a multifaceted resource that has served Island families and students in many ways during its 15 years. Perhaps its greatest benefits have been realized by the parents and children who come to a bright, sunny, and safe environment, where they learn to understand and communicate with one another in ways that promote healthy families.

Young people who participated in programs at the Family Center, as part of the high school’s Early Childhood Education Program, have benefitted from the opportunity for experiential learning, monitored by experienced staff and faculty. Less well recognized are the benefits that have been shared by other high school students, such as those whose art works help to make the center so welcoming, and those whose craft and carpentry projects helped to furnish the center’s busy workspace.

Perhaps there are potential beneficiaries of this community-based resource that have yet to be identified. A recent visitor to the center, I was impressed by the value that the Family Center could have for other types of educational experiences. For example, high school students have the opportunity to interact with the families who participate in the center’s programs. They observe the growth and development of healthy children and learn to identify patterns of communication that strengthen families. This type of educational opportunity would enrich current and future offerings such as psychology, early childhood education, and health care. Young people also may continue to take pride in their contribution to community service through volunteer projects in many areas such as those already evident at the center.

Unfortunately, I learned that the future of the Family Center is currently uncertain. The need to use all resources prudently with the object of providing the greatest benefit for students is rightly a top priority for the administration and the school committee. Due to a decline in student interest in the Early Childhood Education Vocational Program, the Family Center, which serves as a laboratory for this program, is losing its space at the high school in January 2014. I am concerned over the potential impact to the community this major change will have, but as a retired educator, I am also concerned that a valuable learning resource may be lost that may constrain future educational opportunity for students. It is so much more economical to maintain and enhance a community resource such as the Family Center than it would be to replace or restore it once it has been dismantled.

Should future educational programs at MVRHS be initiated that require experiential learning, it is possible that a choice to discard this valuable resource will be seen as shortsighted.

Grace Sullivan