|Through its Shared Responsibility
Model, Mar Vista Family Center (MVFC) has helped transform a community
once filled with urban gang violence, unsafe streets and drug
trafficking into a thriving, healthy community and given its
residents a safe space to learn, grow and lead.
Mar Vista Family Center was founded in 1977 as a preschool for low-income families that aimed to engage parents as partners in the education of their children. In 1980, after functioning in a public school bungalow for three years, a preschool facility was built at the end of a cul-de-sac in the same crime-ridden area that a local gang called home. Three weeks after the preschool opened, the building was burned down. Realizing that the success of a rebuilt preschool would depend on the empowerment of community leaders and parents to play a larger role in the life of the preschool, the MVFC founders developed a model of increased community involvement and personal responsibility. Parents, teens and other members of the community became classroom volunteers, preschool teachers, mentors, fundraisers and community advocates. As additional services have been added over the years - to serve elementary and high school students, as well as adults - MVFC continues to involve the community in the decision-making and running of its programs. MVFC’s long-term involvement with entire families has improved family functioning, decreased domestic violence and improved youths’ academic successes and rates of attendance at institutes of higher education.
MVFC currently operates 21 projects within three main program areas: Early Childhood Education, Youth and Community. These three program groups are designed to complement each other in a whole-family process, with age and status appropriate activities for all family members. Parents and their young children participate together in the Baby and Me and Preschool Programs, where the children acquire basic learning skills and their parents practice life and parenting skills. After graduation from the Preschool Program, the children are encouraged to move on to the Youth Program – and its wealth of educational, recreational, and leadership activities – while their parents find new activities in the Community Program. Many parents in the Community Program find themselves joined there by their children, who have successfully led and mentored youth projects, and are ready to work towards the achievement of broad community goals.
To help families make positive changes in their lives, MVFC is committed to the achievement of three goals: