ASU prep program empowers parents to take active role in children's education

Jaime, Patricia and Yennifer Fabian attend ASU's American Dream Academy

Though their son was already a freshman in architecture at Arizona State University, Patricia and Jaime Fabian worried that their two daughters lacked the motivation to follow him to college.

That is, until they began participating in ASU’s American Dream Academy.

The academy is a free 10-week, parent-empowerment program that teaches families how to navigate the educational process and take an active role in their children’s educational lives through a series of classes, which both the parents and the student attend.

Studies have shown that college graduates earn considerably more over the course of their careers, but for some, the process of applying and getting through college is too daunting of an obstacle. That’s where the academy steps in, helping break down the process into approachable steps.

The Fabians’ older daughter, Yennifer, is a freshman at Trevor G. Browne High School in Phoenix. She’s at a key time for laying the groundwork for college.

"Yennifer has been motivated to go to college after attending the classes, and she has been taking some of the advice they gave us, such as doing a lot of extracurricular activities,” said Patricia Fabian, whose younger daughter, Anareli, is in seventh grade. “[The program] has been very helpful in providing information on how to get accepted into universities and get scholarships.”

Much of what she and her husband learned while taking the classes with Yennifer, they were able to pass on to Jaime Jr., as it was also helpful to him as an ASU freshmen.

“My parents learned that communicating with teachers is really important for our success in school. They also learned about programs for financial aid, such as loans and scholarships and how they work,” said Jaime Jr.

Since 2006, the American Dream Academy has implemented more than 600 programs, served 30,000 parents and empowered more than 80,000 students in Arizona schools. Now, one of its biggest sponsors and the nation’s third-largest public power utility, the Salt River Project (SRP) is presenting the American Dream Academy with a $100,000 grant as a three-year extension of its commitment to the program.

The grant will be presented to the American Dream Academy as it graduates its 30,000th parent – Patricia and Jaime Fabian together represent the 30,000th parent – at a ceremony at 6 p.m., May 13, at Trevor G. Browne High School, 7402 W. Catalina Drive, Phoenix.

“We are excited to be a part of this important milestone,” said Tony Moya, SRP community relations program manager. “It is remarkable to see how many families have benefited from these programs since 2009, and will be an honor to participate as the 30,000th parent graduates from the ADA program.”

SRP has contributed more than $660,000 to the American Dream Academy since 2009. Including the new, three-year commitment, SRP’s total contribution will be nearly $1 million.

“The funding provided by SRP allows the American Dream Academy to invest in more students to help them realize their educational goals by educating and empowering their parents to navigate our educational system and effectively communicate with teachers and administrators to support their child’s development,” said Alex Perilla, director of the American Dream Academy.

For Patricia and Jaime Fabian, who struggled and had to work hard every day for their family after dropping out of middle school, a program like the American Dream Academy has made the difference between their children having to follow in their footsteps, or being able to go in a different direction and find success through higher education.

“There were a couple of times throughout the year when I was really struggling, that I thought to myself that college wasn't for me and that I should just drop out,” said their son, Jaime Jr. “But I kept going because I realized how lucky I am to be in this position … the program has given me a lot of confidence to continue.”

“I am really proud of my son,” Patricia said. “I have high expectations for him.”