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Home arrow Education arrow Field-Based Learning in Family Life Education: Facilitating High-Impact Experiences in Undergraduate Family Science Programs


The Experience: Strengthening Families Program

To provide students more field-based opportunities for family life education through rewarding internship experiences (Arcus, 1993), we have focused on truancy and at-risk families in the local school district to deliver FLE. Working with representatives from Alpine School District, Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Juvenile Court, the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS), Wasatch Mental Health, Orem City, and Latinos In Action (LIA), we created the Strengthening Families Program (SFP), using an evidence-based curriculum (Kumpfer & DeMarsh, 1983). Because we feel this experience offers student-led, hands-on learning, each student in the UVU Family Studies emphasis is trained in this curriculum and teaches in the SFP as part of their degree requirements for at least one semester. Many students repeat the experience for credit or as a volunteer after completing the requirement.

Invitations to attend the SFP go to families recommended by a school’s Student Success Team and families that express interest at UVU presentations at Back to School and Parent/Teacher nights. A maximum of 12 families are invited to each program site. Programs meet once a week for 11 weeks at a school within the high school cluster. The program begins with a family dinner at 5:30 p.m. (with food provided by a local church food bank). Then, participants divide into parent, teen, and child classes taught by UVU student interns from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Finally, families reunite in a family class from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., which is also taught exclusively by students. PTA volunteers assist with the preparation of dinner, and LIA members assist with serving, cleanup, and a nursery for the young children. Often classes are offered in Spanish for those parents who do not speak English. Native-speaking students and others who may have served two-year mission trips to Spanish-speaking areas teach these classes. Finally, site supervisors and students gather after the families have left to debrief, discuss any issues, and provide feedback to one another.

The usual budgeted cost of each SFP program is about $14,000. UVU has been able to conduct SFP for Alpine District Schools at no cost to the district or families due to donations and grants, the volunteer labor of faculty, UVU student interns and volunteers, and volunteer assistance from Alpine District personnel, School PTAs, and LIA members. During 2013, UVU provided over 40 interns, and 50 community volunteers participated. During 2013, approximately 50 families were served by the SPF program. These SFP programs have also received Engaged Learning Grants from UVU, food donations from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, grants from DCFS, and fund-raising by UVU’s Family Studies Club. Beginning fall 2013, Brigham Young University has allocated three Master of Social Work (MSW) interns, and UVU has allocated one Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) intern to support SFP and offer counseling and case management support.

The SFP provides students the type of learning and high-impact practices discussed in this work. Specifically, students are engaged in meaningful tasks and experience diversity as they work with families who may have great challenges, including poverty and truancy (HIP 1 and 3). Students teach the classes in an off-campus setting—just as they would in their first job (HIP 5). Each week, students and faculty review the evening’s events for opportunities to improve and vicarious learning through the sharing of experiences (HIP 2 and 4). Finally, authentic connections are made between students, faculty, and community members (HIP 6). Students in the SFP often form meaningful relationships with their clients and truly see the change in their lives within the program. This internship experience is the culmination of the learning students have done in class, of the knowledge gained through the certification, and of the experience facilitating the program.

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