By: Jackie Hardy, NDG Contributing Writer
Hippy is a term many associate from the 70’s era, but that name has another meaning to the 15,000 families its serves across the nation. HIPPY is an international nonprofit organization that started in Israel whose acronym stands for Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters.
HIPPY is a home-based literacy program designed to prepare preschoolers ages 3-5 academically through the fostering of parental involvement via literacy activities by offering all preschool children specifically those from vulnerable communities the opportunity to receive and develop a quality social, cultural, and educational experience.
Founded in 1969, HIPPY International has grown across the globe as it has sites in Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Canada and started in the United States in 1984. HIPPY USA is based in Little Rock, Arkansas with 135 HIPPY program sites in 21 states, including the District of Columbia, per the organization’s national website.
The National Council of Jewish Women whose mission is to lead the charge in advocating the needs of women, children and families is one of the major supporters of the HIPPY programs.
According to HIPPY’s website their mission is: to help parents empower themselves as their children’s first teacher by giving them the tools, skills and confidence they need to work with their children in the home. The program was designed to bring families, organizations and communities together and remove any barriers to participation that may include limited financial resources or lack of education.
Recently, the NCJW organized and sponsored the 25th anniversary celebration of HIPPY’s partnership with some of the local school districts within the North Texas area. The celebration was held on March 21 at the Dallas Zoo.
Many families were in attendance from the Dallas, Richardson and Irving Independent School Districts to commemorate the accomplishments of the HIPPY program.
“This program has made a huge difference in developing our son’s motor and literacy skills. It has also helped me connect with other parents and build a great support network,” comments Julian Washington and Honorine Byer of Irving and participants of the HIPPY Irving program.
During the celebration Robin Zweig, , current Greater-Dallas NCJW President, welcomed attendees and offered remarks along with NCJW Director and long-time and respected member Syl Benenson.
Benenson addressed the enthusiastic crowd and introduced some of the representatives from the various school districts in attendance.
There were also two sisters who were former Dallas ISD HIPPY participants that shared their personal testimonies of what the program has meant to them and the difference it made in their lives. Both sisters currently work as Home Coordinators within the program.
Sharon Milham, Irving ISD Interim Divisional Director of Students and Family Engagement (SAFE), also addressed the crowd by recognizing NCJW for their support and she also spoke to North Dallas Gazette (NDG) via phone about the importance of the HIPPY program within the Irving community.
“What I know about HIPPY is it is really instrumental in preparing our students for school so when they come to school they have a strong foundation and are more ready to learn. When parents see how excited we are, the instructors are, and the children are then they get excited too.
Parents want nothing more than their children to succeed and anything they see that will help them succeed they are going to be behind it,” comments Milham.
The program ended with all the children taking the stage to sing a creative rendition both in English and Spanish about HIPPY to the tune of You are My Sunshine.
“HIPPY has been a part of Irving ISD for 15 years and it has helped to fill a need for those families who do not qualify for free early childhood development because their income exceed the poverty guidelines for free programs offered to low-income families,” adds Olayinka Moore-Ojo, HIPPY Coordinator for Irving ISD.
According to Ojo, the Irving HIPPY program has been successful in part due to helping remove the stigma that programs like HIPPY are only available to those families where English is a second language. She advises this program serves a broad demographic making it accessible to all families within Irving.
The HIPPY program within Irving ISD serves approximately 300 families and it employs 12 Home Coordinators whereas each Home Coordinator is assigned 25 families, according to Ojo. The model of the program consists of a research-based curriculum with role play as the method of teaching; home visits; and group meetings.
Family Requirements for the HIPPY Irving program include: having a child of the age three or four before October 1; live in the Irving ISD, receive the visit of the Home Coordinator once per week; dedicate 15 minutes per day with child; and attend monthly parent meetings and field trips (which all field trips are free to the parent and child as they are sponsored by NCJW).
Eddie Haymer, Irving parent credits his Home Coordinator for helping his son master reading as he shared with NDG how working several jobs limits the time he has to spend teaching his son but with the support of his Home Coordinator his son is reading very well.
According to the website, The HIPPY home visiting model has been rated the highest rating possible for home visiting programs by the California Evidence-Based Clearing House (CEBC) and one of the original seven home visiting models program models designated as evidence-based by meeting the rigorous criteria set for funding under the federal Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.
The Home Coordinators are members within the community and also parents within the program according to the website. Home Coordinators, parent alumni or members of the community are trained to work with families in their homes and in small supportive group settings. During the weekly home visits, parents learn to teach their children to: recognize shapes and colors, listen to and tell stories, follow directions, solve logical problems and acquire other school readiness skills.
“We hire about three percent of the parents who complete the program and it is a way for those parents who benefited from the program to give back in addition to giving those parents the opportunity to gain job experience to help jump start their career,” adds Ojo.
“We get such a thrill in seeing parents know how to teach their children, become so involved that they further their own education and their general welfare of the family improves with good jobs and it just breaks that cycle of poverty,” states Benenson.
Ojo also advised the District has seen test scores increase among students who successfully complete the HIPPY program.
“Many of the students who participate in the HIPPY program test higher in reading and math state assessments and 65 % of the students who participate in the program go on to become GTE students,” advises Ojo.
Benenson shares, “The legacy we hope to give is that we gave families a chance to succeed, to give their families an opportunity to grow and to have meaningful employment, to learn how to love their children the right way and be able to give them the opportunities that they need.”