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Local Educator Improves the Lives of Low-Income Families

"WETA Hometown Heroes" Features Barbara Mason in February

Washington, D.C. — Barbara Mason, founder and executive director of the Child & Family Network Centers (CFNC), is the focus of a month-long WETA Hometown Heroes profile airing in February on WETA TV 26. WETA selected Mason for her strong dedication to the education of underprivileged children in Northern Virginia. Her profile premieres on Monday, February 4, just prior to the broadcast of Antiques Roadshow at 8 p.m. on WETA TV 26 and repeats throughout the month.

CFNC was launched in 1984, after Mason responded to a newspaper ad in search of a preschool teacher. The ad was placed by mothers in the Cameron Valley Housing Project in Alexandria, Virginia, who were upset that their kindergarten-age children had flunked their grade. Initially, only six kids attended Mason’s preschool; those children were later identified as “gifted” and flourished in school. Since that time, CFNC has grown considerably. The organization now has an enrollment of approximately 200 young students, has expanded into Arlington, Virginia, and is free to low-income families. CFNC concentrates on families living in poverty who are ineligible for childcare programs and now offers — beyond just preschool classes—education, family, and health services available to entire needy families. Offerings include speech and language services; dental, hearing, and vision screenings; and parenting classes, financial literacy workshops and job training.

Mason created a comprehensive model program and adopted the nationally accredited teaching program, the High Scope Curriculum, for CFNC. The program has been shown to be effective for low-income kids in multicultural environments. At-risk students have a considerably higher overall achievement rate in the classroom compared to their peers that receive a traditional educational curriculum. CFNC also has a Paid Parent Assistant Program, bringing parents to help as aides in the classroom. Many of the current CFNC teachers started out in the Paid Parent Assistant Program. CFNC provides programs that support their mission “to provide caring, high-quality, free education and related services to at risk children and families in their own neighborhoods in order to prepare and empower them for success in school and life."

Although Mason considers CFNC to be one of her proudest accomplishments, one of her most rewarding moments occurred years ago in a kindergarten classroom. The students were asked to draw a community helper. Most of the children drew firefighters and policemen, except for one little boy. When showing the class his community helper, the little boy explained, “This is Mrs. Mason. She’s my teacher and I love her.”

Along with working closely with families in CFNC, Mason operates with various outreach organizations, including Alexandria’s Special Education and Preschool Intervention Advisory Boards, Virginia Preschool Initiative Planning Committee and the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington.

Mason’s belief of high-quality education accessible to all children has created a large organization that counteracts many stereotypes about disadvantaged children. CFNC has grown from a preschool of only six students to a multimillion dollar organization that helps and encourages entire families. For more information about Mason and CFNC visit www.cfnc-online.org.

Now in its tenth year, WETA Hometown Heroes is an Emmy Award winning multimedia project that heralds individuals who improve their communities and encourages others to volunteer service. To be involved and to submit nominations, visit the website at www.weta.org/heroes where you will find volunteer opportunities at area organizations, archived WETA Hometown Heroes features, and forms to nominate a hero. Mason’s WETA Hometown Heroes profile will also be featured on the WETA media player, WETA Watch Online at www.weta.org/watchonline. Featuring more than one hundred videos, WETA Watch Online includes the latest videos from WETA local productions such as The WETA Guide, WETA All Access and WETA Extras.

WETA Hometown Heroes is made possible through the generous support of Park Foundation, Inc.; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

WETA supports educational and culturally enriching opportunities for local youth through programming and outreach workshops such as Reading Rockets and Ready To Learn. To find out more about these projects, visit WETA’s community website at www.weta.org/community.

WETA TV 26 and Classical WETA 90.9 FM are public broadcasting stations serving Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia with educational, cultural, news and public affairs programming and related services. WETA is committed to producing programs that highlight the history and people of the Greater Washington area. WETA produces WETA All Access, The WETA Guide, WETA Around Town, WETA Neighborhoods and WETA Extras, spotlighting local people, places and events. WETA’s headquarters is located in Arlington, Virginia. For more information on WETA and its services, visit www.weta.org. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is the president and CEO of WETA.

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