More than 75 families have benefitted from the Smart from the Start program at Woodland Terrace in the past year.

The District of Columbia Housing Authority celebrated the accomplishment with the seven-year-old, Boston-based educational program that works with infants to pre-school-aged children, their families, and the surrounding community to bridge achievement gaps.

“I wanted to bring this program to Woodland, because this community is full of families that deserve this level of attention,” said DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman. “To me, there was no other site that was more deserving of this talent and resource.”

The program is modeled after Harvard University research on the theory of change: if you build adult capabilities and skills, the lives and outcomes for the child greatly improve.

The classes not only focus on children up to age 5, but they work with parents, grandparents and other caretakers. A myriad of programs are offered for the older students, such as GED and ESL classes, group discussions on caregiving and job training, among other subjects.

“The parent comes in with their child for play groups and they learn child development. They take those skills home with them,” said Cherie Craft, executive director of Smart from the Start, during a tour of the facility. “A parent is a child’s first teacher.”

Craft, who grew up in a community similar to Woodland, said this neighborhood is full of strength and families full of potential. However, there is a lack of opportunity. Smart from the Start is providing those options to the young men and women who join, she said.

‘We help the parents set goals to achieve self-sufficiency so that these kids and families will reach their greatest potential,” she said. “It is amazing what these folks are accomplishing.”

The organization has been listening to the community and catering their programming towards GED classes, job readiness, and workforce development.

Sergio Hill, 23, said he is proud to be in a leadership position with the organization.

“It actually made me stronger. I have more patience and I’m more dedicated to my work and working with [other young men in the program],” he said. “There is someone out there to help younger adults with their kids and to achieve their dreams.”

In addition to building neighborhood partners, the organization is expanding opportunities for its families through education and leadership conferences. Next week several participants plan to attend the Fathers and Families Conference in Los Angeles.

Davon Moses will be one of those attendees. He said he enjoyed the parent-and-children outings they take as a group. The organization helped him and several others find jobs and provides transportation to GED classes, he said.

“We’ve been together since we were young. We all want to see each other do good,” Moses said.

If the program proves as successful in the District as it did in Boston, it could expand to other DCHA properties, Todman said.

“Bringing parents and their children together is a beautiful thing,” Todman said.

Smart from the Start is funded through local and foundation donations. The organization also seeks partnerships in the surrounding neighborhood to form a supportive community-wide learning initiative.

Smart from the Start staff Rachelle Eddins helps D.J. Moses count out his move on Chutes and Ladders.
Last modified: 2/18/2015 9:02:04 AM