“Poverty does not have to lead
to educational failure.” Sanjay Mathur
An innovative early childhood and parenting education
by 14 schools in the nation's fourth poorest city, AVANCE-El Paso is
designed to help parents and their preschool children break the cycle
of poverty through early childhood development, parenting education,
adult literacy, and healthy marriage classes.
Although 94 percent of
AVANCE children are economically disadvantaged, program graduates outscore
their school district peers as a whole on standardized tests by 12
to 15 percentage points and have shown higher high school graduation
and college enrollment rates.
AVANCE-El Paso currently serves 3,000
children and adults in child development, parenting, and intensive
family literacy classes at an average annual cost per family of $2,500.
Launched in 1997, AVANCE-El Paso is an offshoot of the AVANCE program
begun in San Antonio in 1973 that has been replicated in nine other
Texas locations, southern New Mexico, and San Jose, California.
Recognizing that parents are the most important
and most constant teachers that children will ever have, AVANCE
focuses on parental education (parenting, adult literacy, English-language,
and healthy marriage training) as a way of reaching children
in their earliest, preschool years to improve their educational
and life outcomes. Education begins well before a child's first
day at school, and empowering parents with literacy, job, and
parenting skills builds stronger families and has allowed AVANCE
children, despite tremendous economic disadvantages, to outperform
their peers on standardized school achievement tests.
AVANCE is remedying a gap in early education and parental involvement
that schools lack the tools, focus, and time to fill.
AVANCE's parenting curriculum provides a multi-generational
benefit because as parents are given the tools to become better
parents, address low self-esteem and dependency, improve their
connectivity to the community, and set life goals, they inevitably
serve as better role models and improve their children's lives.
Built into AVANCE's model - and emblematic of its entrepreneurial
nature - is a "ladder-up" philosophy that incorporates parents
who graduate from the program into AVANCE operations, with some
graduates going on to gain valuable work experience at AVANCE,
and directing them to AmeriCorps, which provides a path for them
to get a college education after doing public service.
About Sanjay Mathur,
Sanjay Mathur has been Executive Director of AVANCE-El Paso (Texas)
since 1999. Prior to his work at AVANCE, he worked for the Paso del
Norte Health Foundation and the US Centers for Disease Control and
Mr. Mathur is originally from Mumbai, India, where he was
born to a Swiss mother and Indian father. He grew up in Houston, Texas
after immigrating to the United States with his parents at the age
of two, and became a US citizen in 1983. After graduating from high
school the following year, he served for two years in the US Army at
Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He also served for over two years in the US
Peace Corps in Mali, in the field of water and sanitation.
Mr. Mathur is proficient
in Spanish, French, and Bambara, and speaks basic Hindi and German.
Since becoming Executive Director of AVANCE- El Paso, he has increased
the budget and the numbers of children and families impacted ten-fold
over the past ten years.