The Family Development Program is a process of empowerment. It is giving back to people who have been disenfranchised for so many years the ability to know that their opinions are valued, that each is a valued person, that we believe in them, and that we very much care about their children. Family development is the process that we use to engage people in a dialogue and to determine what they want in terms of their destiny.Dr. Maria Chavez, Founder
In The Beginning
The Family Development Program began with one preschool and twenty families in the South Broadway neighborhood of Albuquerque. Founder Maria Chavez went door to door to meet with families -- soon families were getting together to determine what was most essential for their children and their neighborhood. They decided that a preschool was their highest priority. Escuelita Alegre was born. The bilingual preschool provided a multicultural experience that represented the families in the neighborhood.
The educational objective is to raise healthy children and healthy families. The preschool’s goal is to provide an environment that is stimulating, that creates initiation amongst the children—where children take charge of their own learning and parents are part of that process. The school draws on parents’ strengths to show that they can play vital roles in education.Roberta Marquez, Escuelita Alegre Coordinator
From Local to Statewide
Founded in 1985, a family centered approach to community partnership became the Family Development Program’s hallmark for quality early learning, thanks to the generous support of the Bernard van Leer Foundation based in the Netherlands. The Bernard van Leer Foundation funded the Family Development Program for an unprecedented nine years. Because of the success of Escuelita Alegre as a nationally accredited bilingual preschool, Bernard van Leer Foundation encouraged the Family Development Program to disseminate our educational model statewide. In 1992, the New Mexico legislature began to invest in the Family Development Program as community-based education aimed at building strong partnerships between educators and families so that children thrive.
Parents and their kids have learned to forge iron-clad safety nets for themselves…with the help of the UNM Family Development Program… Bouquets to UNM, parents and children for setting a national example.Jack Ehn, Editorial Page Editor, "Bouquets and Brickbats,"
Albuquerque Tribune, October 24, 1995