Using language development classes, language stimulation, and encouraging parental involvement in homework, Tulsa Fellow Mary Clancy is helping local women in a transitional housing program gain the skills and confidence to be more active in their children’s learning and education.
Clancy’s primary goal is for participants to gain a greater understanding of the value of education and reading. But on a more functional level, Clancy wants the women served by her project “to feel more sure of their abilities to support their children’s education and to reach out to educators and supporters when they face obstacles related to their children’s education in the future,” she said.
Clancy, a speech-language pathology student at the University of Tulsa, developed her project after meeting with several area programs serving women who were homeless or incarcerated, gauging their interest in a program that would address adult functional illiteracy. While no organization believed literacy skills were a pressing unmet need for their adult clients, several organizations expressed a need for help improving literacy among the children they served. Thus, Clancy refocused her project, which led her to her Lindsey House, a transitional home for women who are homeless in downtown Tulsa.
“The executive director expressed her openness for a Schweitzer project at her site, but more importantly, she was enthusiastic and passionate about the work,” said Clancy. “I wanted to work with the population she served, and in the way that she had indicated they needed help. It was a perfect fit.”
Over the past summer, Clancy spent much of her project time working with mothers of young children, discussing the importance of reading and talking to their children—and how to talk to them. While many of the mothers knew reading and talking with their children was important, few knew how to overcome specific barriers to the application of these skills. Therefore, Clancy spent time with the women of Lindsey House, brainstorming and modeling strategies related to early childhood learning, such as how to read with a squirmy baby or how to engage a disinterested reader.
“They took the instruction to heart and always shared their progress on using the techniques and skills they were learning in the program,” said Clancy.
Though there were many successes, she was particularly concerned about one three-year-old child who was essentially non-verbal. But recently, Clancy encountered the toddler and his mother at Lindsey House, and lo and behold, he had a few things to say.
“He was talkative,” said Clancy. “He was making progress! It was very exciting!”
Clancy made some unexpected progress of her own over the course of the project. She said she was surprised both by the way the mothers of Lindsey House depended on her to get things done—and by her capacity to meet their expectations.
“As I enter the world as a ‘real adult,’ this has been both challenging and empowering,” she said.
Clancy also credits the Fellowship with making her feel a sense of belonging in Tulsa that merely growing up there did not.
“I love serving my community with skills and knowledge developed in me by community leaders who care deeply about me and about our city,” said Clancy.
Her new sense of belonging and pride in her community now extends to her cohort of Tulsa Fellows.
“Each time the Tulsa Fellows meet I am amazed by the work each one is doing, and the passion and love they have for their projects and the populations they serve,” Clancy said. “I am so honored to be included, and so thankful for the friendships that have developed in our time together. I anticipate that the friendships and support will continue to push me to pursue my dreams and to serve the unmet needs of local underserved populations throughout my career.