Hoping to eradicate poverty and child abuse in San Bernardino County, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors recently approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Children and Families Commission of San Bernardino County (First 5). The purpose of the MOU is to offer an online high school diploma program for qualified parents of enrolled Head Start or Early Head Start children.

According to Diana Alexander, director of the county Preschool Services Department, the program will be offered through the San Bernardino County Library and will be open to Preschool Services Department-referred parents who are at least 19 years old.

Prior to enrollment, an applicant must complete an interview, online assessment and prerequisite course.

“This is an amazing opportunity to completely change the lives of families, to potentially lift them out of poverty and to provide a much brighter future for their children,” said Alexander.

PSD serves more than 6,000 Head Start and Early Head Start families. About 35 percent of parents in the programs enter without a high school diploma or GED.

Through the online high school diploma program, each student will be paired with an academic coach who will provide the parent with an individual career path. The coach also will offer ongoing guidance, evaluate performance and connect the student with the resources needed to succeed. The time limit to complete the program is 18 months.

"The opportunity is made possible by the state library’s generous contribution to improving adult learning in our region," said Leonard Hernandez, deputy executive officer for the San Bernardino County Library.

"The match provided by First 5 and implemented for the parents of Preschool Services again shows the collective impact that is created when we all work together to accomplish the County’s Vision."

According to San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales, education is the key to lifting families out of poverty. Each year that a person spends in school accounts for a 10 percent increase in their potential earnings. And in addition to poverty, data also indicate a higher risk of child abuse in families where the mother does not have a high school diploma, Gonzales said.

“The vicious cycle of poverty and violence will likely continue unless we execute a life-changing intervention through education,” said Gonzales. “The County Board of Supervisors commends the county library, Preschool Services Department, and First 5 for bringing this much-needed resource to our community.”

For more information, call 909-387-4565.