NCFL celebrates 25 years of FACE partnerships | Part 1


by Sharon Darling

This year the National Center for Families Learning celebrates a 25-year partnership with the Bureau of Indian Education to provide the Family and Child Education (FACE) program alongside Parents as Teachers (PAT). Working with these organizations has been an incredible experience—one that continues to empower current and future generations of American Indian families through education and learning together.

And, what is left to say about Bill Mehojah’s commitment to family literacy? Bill’s intense passion for FACE has never wavered and continues even in his retirement years. I am so grateful for his visionary leadership and partnership, and thrilled to see his legacy honored in celebrations such as the FACE ceremonies held at the PAT conference last month.

NCFL’s center-based family literacy services for FACE, which have benefited 17,000 families in American Indian schools, actually have roots in Appalachia. When I first met with Bill I was convinced that the family literacy programs NCFL was leading in Kentucky could make a dramatic difference in American Indian communities. The videos I brought to that meeting in 1989 of parents and children going to school together in rural Kentucky resonated so strongly with Bill. FACE was born very soon thereafter, and I soon realized we’d need to adapt NCFL’s family literacy model to reach FACE families in a culturally appropriate way.

Our first insight on this was spurred by one of my initial visits to an American Indian school. As I watched a three-year-old girl pretend to read to her doll nestled in a traditional American Indian cradle board, I knew we would need to add an important facet to our two-generation, four-component family literacy model. We integrated culturally appropriate programming and training that continues to this day. I firmly believe it is a critical factor in FACE’s progress.

While FACE’s evaluation results are clear indicators of the program’s success, the stories of individual families are most powerful. One of the first FACE adult students comes to mind. Today she has a degree in Early Childhood Education—and her daughter has followed in her footsteps with a degree of her own.

We also celebrate our partnership with Parents as Teachers with this milestone. It’s remarkable and uncommon to see two national organizations collaborate as closely as we have to provide a seamless system for parents and children for so many years.

NCFL is honored to have been a part of the lives of thousands of FACE families and thankful for the support and efforts of our partners. The past 25 years provide such a strong foundation for the future of families learning together, and influenced much of NCFL’s work along the way. The future remains bright for FACE; here’s to the road ahead.

This post is the first of a two-part reflection on 25 years of the FACE program. Sharon Darling, NCFL’s president and founder, started FACE with the Bureau of Indian Education, Bill Mehojah, and Parents as Teachers in 1990.