Mildraide Lazarre describes the parent education program at La Cañada Presbyterian Church as a game changer, for herself and her son.
“Being from the islands — I’m from Haiti — I moved out to California and I don’t have any family,” said Lazarre. “So it’s just nice to be part of a community and for my son for developmental purposes. He’s grown so much just from being in this class.”
Lazarre said Logan, who is 14 months old, has been coming to the LCPC Parent Education program for seven months and is in the toddler class. But his mom is learning, too, because the program also advises grown-ups on how to confidently parent their kids, at all stages of their youth.
“Everyone’s really lovely and supportive, which is great because this whole parenting thing is really new to me,” she said. “It’s a nice support system.”
That’s what LCPC Parent Education has striven to provide for four decades — in fact, the program is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a picnic on Sunday, Nov. 4, at Memorial Park. The Rev. Jeff Hoffmeyer, the church’s senior pastor, will begin the event with a worship service in the park at 10 a.m., and the picnic will last from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Attendees can hear cover band PCH perform and visit a petting zoo, bounce houses and face painting booth. There will be food and drinks for purchase, and the first 400 families to arrive will receive a Parent Ed blanket.
Parent Ed is trying to raise $40,000 by Nov. 4 for scholarships and outreach.
The program offers 20 distinct classes for parents whose children range from infancy to age 18.
The program “is a ministry committed to drawing families to Christ, his church and each other,” according to its mission statement.
The program provides day, night and summer classes while parents of children up to age 5 attend classes with their children. Parents of elementary school kids, tweens and teens attend parent-only classes.
“Last year we had over 500 parents and children on our campus during the year and we expect to hit that same marker and potentially exceed that this year,” said Anne Bierling, Parent Education director. She said there are 19 staff members, 15 board members and eight members of the Ministry Support Team.
All classes, according to the program’s website, cost $230 a semester except discussion-only classes that are $130 a semester. A $75 non-refundable enrollment fee is due for everyone at registration time.
There are also separate fees for a four-week parent express class, and fees can be paid by semester or the whole year. The program offers sibling discounts and options for payment help available to anyone, officials said.
Sarah Montes, a former preschool teacher turned first-year Parent Ed teacher, said she enjoys encouraging young families to get to know one another and build a sense of community.
“It’s always about the other moms and dads, other families, other participants,” Montes said. “Sometimes parenting can be very isolating, and it’s such a pleasure to have a place where you can talk about the joys and challenges involved in dealing with young children.”
Amber Gerhardt Serrano, who has been in the program for 17 years, said she has had three children during that time. The program has helped her meet other moms, and they still get together for birthdays and Christmas-season events.
“From 17 years ago when the kids were babies, we’ve stayed in touch all these years and there’s a group of us that have remained friends all these years,” Serrano said.
She said instructor Nanette Brown helped her and her husband get through the experience of parenting their first child.
“We didn’t know what we were doing,” Serrano said. “It’s almost like having an auntie give you advice. And it’s OK if they’re teething, here’s what you’re going to do. Or potty training and not sleeping, and how to keep your marriage strong.”
Serrano said the education and support system is what keeps bringing her back to the parent education program.
“I think every kid’s different and it’s so wonderful,” Serrano said. “This is my first boy, so then being able to make friends with moms who have boys as well. To have a structure that has the resources, the book, and to give couples advice and just the camaraderie you have with the other moms.”
Jan Roberts, who began as a Parent Ed participant and now leads two parenting-with-tween classes, is in her 27th year of teaching. She has taught just about every class for the program: parenting elementary children, parenting tweens, parenting teens and parenting college, which is no longer a part of the curriculum.
Roberts described the program as unique and said people from around the country call to see how it started as well as to observe classes.
“It’s very unique in the longevity of it,” Roberts said. “And it’s continuing to grow. I just see it as a place of learning for parents. It’s a place of community building.”
Additionally, people who are new to the city often come into the program and get to know other people.
“So lasting friends are made in these classes and I can speak to that because one of the first classes I was in, one of my best friends was from this program,” Roberts said.
Class listings can be found at lacanadapc.org/parented.
To RSVP for the picnic or make a donation, visit bit.ly/ParentEd40th.
For more information on the picnic, contact (818) 790-6708, ext. 205.