The Student News Site of Wilsonville High School

Wilsonville Broadcast Network

The Student News Site of Wilsonville High School

Wilsonville Broadcast Network

The Student News Site of Wilsonville High School

Wilsonville Broadcast Network

Family Empowerment Center “filling a need”

Avery Eckley
Community members join Monday night’s Family Empowerment Program session. A family practices newly-learned English grammar skills in practice books and converses fluently with the instructor.

“The Family Empowerment Center has been open since 2021, serving the entire West Linn-Wilsonville community,” WLWV director of communications Andrew Kilstrom says.

Through the West Linn/Wilsonville school district, a new program has stricken up to form a highly beneficial environment for the community. The Family Empowerment Program (FEC) looks to equip families with needed resources. 

From food, clothing, school supplies, and access to mental health resources and locally based educational classes and workshops, the district is heavily supplied with programs to support families in Clackamas County. 

Family Empowerment Program Spanish to English immersion session teaches people with different skill sets. This upper-level conversation meets people with an excellent understanding and ability to comprehend the English language. (Avery Eckley)

Each part of the WLWV Family Empowerment Center promotes equity through the community partnership that bridges people into an immersive program. 

Maria Horton, one of the main leaders with FEC, coordinates the weekly meetings. Open for enrollment of anyone older than 16 years of age, this CCC (Clackamas Community College) education course focuses on personal improvement rather than earning credits.

FEC’s vision is to “Empower families to become active advocates in their children’s education through a culturally responsive holistic approach,” West Linn-Wilsonville School District website shares.

The group of learners spotlights the process of supporting emotional and mental well-being while also developing new skills and a perusal attitude to break common barriers like language differences, etc., to achieve success. 

Maria Horton indicates a specific point of FEC members identifying as, 

“…Community members,” rather than other terms that may imply that they have not graduated or earned respectable credits. 

Although this course is through a collaboration with CCC, the participants do not have to meet “requirements” and do not sign up for FEC to “pass a class.” 

(Avery Eckley)

This is a new approach to pedagogy. Even instructors of the Family Empowerment program do not need certifications in teaching. Most instructors of FEC come directly from WLWV staff or live in the

surrounding community.

The local FEC building uses portable classroom spaces to hold weekly sessions for community members. Welcoming them into the space with donuts, coffee, and warm smiles, this phrase is also painted on the wall. (Avery Eckley)

Some main coordinators of FEC, such as Maria Horton, work directly with families, schools, and the wider community to develop relationships with individuals and support each person, depending on their situation. WLWV director of communications, Andrew Kilstrom, describes Horton’s role in the empowerment program:

“Maria’s work centers on connecting families with outside resources. This includes tangible resources as well access to mental health resources, local programs, adult education classes, workshops, and more.”

Another instructor who focuses on adult language departments emphasizes her passion for expanding and developing the FEC. 

“This fall, we had our biggest class ever. Many of the adults are parents of the Chinese immersion students at Bolton Primary, and some are parents of my Chinese class students at West Linn High School,” Gao Laoshi explains.

She continues in describing her class, “In the 90 minutes, we learn basic Chinese phrases and conversation, explore Chinese culture and history. We also do activities like calligraphy, Chinese Chess, Chinese New Year celebrations, and more.”

FEC invites the community to involve itself in both participation and support of the program. Cities provide spaces for the meetings and instructors to teach. The program runs off grants for community engagement. Funds are assigned to the district for activities like the WLWV district’s enrichment programs. 

The justification for the expense of the grant is through the statistics of enrollment in FEC classes. 

Adults, children, and families work in local rooms. The environment is both educational and encouraging. Family Empowerment Center has built a place where every name is known, and everyone has the courage to engage in fully immersive conversations. Maria Horton reflects on one of her favorite memories:

“To hear kids talking and speaking in English,” she states with conviction. Initially, some people experience English as an esoteric challenge, but have the time and space to transform their perception and understanding of the language to where they can converse with other fluent speakers through FEC. 

People get to learn about everything from English parlance to how people interact by using sentence structures daily. 

FEC courses incorporate dynamic lessons like grammar and connect language to traditional in-action scenarios. 

To get involved in the local FEC program, WLWV students and parents can contact their school counselors, who work directly with FEC investors, instructors, and collaborators.

Andrew Kilstrom remarks, “We see the Family Empowerment Center filling a need that exists in both West Linn and Wilsonville, serving as a conduit to resources and information that are available within our communities.”

For future expansions of FEC, Kilstrom shares the vision of reaching more families in the coming years. Currently, “The center resides in its own building adjacent to Boeckman Creek Primary School,” Kilstrom informs. 

Further, he says, “In time, we expect it will take up the entire building to provide classroom space and additional resources.” FEC is a constant development with the potential to reach hundreds of individuals. 

WLWV Family Empowerment Center enriches the minds of many and diversifies the community while simultaneously strengthening its collaboration between the district and its citizens. From folkloric to engaging family classes, FEC has built an environment of growth and a contrivance that impacts the local education and overall community. 

FEC’s Monday night class involves a series of activities friendly for families and youths too. The instructor uses the whiteboard to instigate and insinuate fluent conversations between the community members. (Avery Eckley)