What is First 5?

First 5 Sonoma County funds programs, services and advocacy to promote, support, and improve the early development of children from the prenatal stage through age five. First 5 is funded by Proposition 10, a statewide ballot initiative passed in 1998. The resulting revenues are allocated to First 5 California (20 percent) and statewide to a First 5 Children and Families Commission in every California County (based on birth rate).

The local iteration of the national early childhood education program, AVANCE, is being handed over from the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation to La Luz Center this fall.

The program for local parents and their children under age three has been operating in Sonoma Valley since 2012.

The program, which is funded by First Five Sonoma County, centers on an eight-month curriculum with three-hour weekly classes for parents and their young children. It is designed to help parents to be effective teachers for their children and to provide them with tools to create a rich developmental environment at home.

“La Luz has the experience and relationships to reach those who will most benefit from the AVANCE program,” said Betzy Chavez, La Luz director of school programs and education. “With strong community partnerships and our existing program offerings, we’ll be able to provide a range of services to support successful outcomes for AVANCE families”.

The AVANCE curriculum includes play-based learning as well as parental education classes that focus on early childhood development, literacy and school readiness.

Deb Garberm executive director of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation explained that while both the Foundation and the school district recognize the importance of parent education and early childhood education, the district faced challenges running the program on a school site.

“When all parties agreed the Foundation would not apply for another three-year grant, La Luz was identified as a perfect partner to host the program,” she said. “We were thrilled to hear they were awarded the grant and look forward to seeing the AVANCE program continue in Sonoma Valley.”

Nationally, the nonprofit AVANCE program was founded in 1973. Since that time, it is credited with improving kindergarten readiness and creating stronger long-term parental involvement and support for their children’s education. In addition to the weekly classes, the program includes monthly home visits that reinforce class learning and explore other support services that may be needed by the family.

La Luz is hiring and training teachers and aides for the program this summer and will launch AVANCE in early September. The staff and program will be led by Chavez. There will be 20-25 parent/child participants in each of the Tuesday and Thursday AVANCE sessions.

Hanna Boys Center has donated space on the Hanna campus. The classrooms are being set up this week and AVANCE staff training will take place next week.

La Luz staff and volunteers will begin a neighborhood outreach and enrollment campaign in August. Participant orientation is scheduled for the last week of August.

A community AVANCE open house is planned for 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at the Hanna AVANCE site at 16700 Arnold Drive.

What is First 5?

First 5 Sonoma County funds programs, services and advocacy to promote, support, and improve the early development of children from the prenatal stage through age five. First 5 is funded by Proposition 10, a statewide ballot initiative passed in 1998. The resulting revenues are allocated to First 5 California (20 percent) and statewide to a First 5 Children and Families Commission in every California County (based on birth rate).