Sun-Times Norridge Harwood-Heights: Local Couple Facilitates Families of Character Program

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CHICAGO - September 26, 2013 - Lupe and Aurelio Garcia are raising their family in Edison Park and they volunteer as facilitators of 'Families of Character' for parents at a Chicago enrichment center for girls. Lupe Garcia, former General Counsel for the Chicago Park District,  was so impacted by her experience in ‘Families of Character' for her family and is now facilitating a Families of Character program.

According to the Families of Character website: "Our collaborative and guided program creates a safe environment for parents to share and learn from each other, drawing from real-life situations and conflicts."

Lupe Garcia was already involved with Midtown Educational Foundation. These organizations Midtown Center for boys and Metro Achievement Center for girls provide academic and character enrichment for at-risk Chicago youth, with dedicated parent support and one-on-one mentoring.

These are Lupe Garcia's experiences bringing it to the Metro Achievement Center:

Q. How did you first get involved with Metro Achievement Center? How long have you been involved?

A. My involvement started with Midtown Educational Foundation/ Midtown Center for boys and Metro Achievement Center for girls back in 1994-95. At the time I was dating my husband and he was involved with Midtown for boys. I am currently still involved with both. I serve on the Executive Committee.

Q. How did you get involved in Families of Character?

A. I started this summer. We started in July. My children attend a grammar school. It's a private Catholic school, Embers Elementary, and the founder came to speak to the parents at the school.  He gave this fabulous talk and he encouraged families to join groups. My husband and I just found it so useful and just really taught us how to communicate with each other.

Q. Why did you bring the program to Midtown Educational Foundation?

A. The reason I brought it to Midtown was I was invited to speak to moms in the spring of last year. I think the topic was five secrets to helping your daughter find happiness.  I went to the Families of Character handbook to generate ideas. I used some of his material in the presentation and the moms that were there you could just tell the hunger that was there.  It was putting structure to what they do all day.  And it occurred to me why don't we just do this here. When you become a parent no one gives you a manual and we're all struggling with the same problems.  And the fact that we're all sharing and that no one is lecturing. I'm learning from them and they're learning from us

Q. How does Families of Character work?

A. The ideal setup is to have a group of about five couples. Anything more than that can be difficult. A lot of it is discussions with the couples and one of the couples offer to be the facilitators. There was so much interest that we initially had 50 couples show up.

Q. What made you want to become a facilitator?

A. I worked full time and I had a pretty stressful job and I worked from the time my first child was born.

I was so busy trying to work trying to serve my family as a mother and a wife and trying to do that crazy juggling and balance I wasn't realizing how much it was stressing me out.

When we [Lupe and Aurelio] really sat down and talked about it through this program we realized this was crazy. What are we doing?

I'm not working anymore. I went from practicing law for 22 years to being totally okay with not working. We had to seriously downsize.

I was afraid to have that conversation with my husband before that because I felt like I would be letting him down and letting my kids down.

I firmly believe that as the family goes, the society goes.

Most people don't understand that parents are primary educators of their children. They're watching everything we do. We are their models.

[The program] helps people to really look at their lives. How are we relating to one another? What habits do we have or don't have?

What we encourage the families to do is create a mission statement for your family.

Q. Who participates in the program?

A. Those who have young children or don't have children yet are probably prime.

In our group, we have couples with kids out of college  and then we have couples with really young kids or those who are enrolled at Metro Midtown. That's what makes it so dynamic.

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