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CHC and SF PEN merge to address children's learning disorders

Sat, 30 Dec 2017 19:26:00
Article by:
Diane Dahlstadt
CHC 2017 breakfast with Tiffany Hunt, Brian Dombkowski, Rosalie Whitlock, John Kriewall, Berina Hawes, Doug Woods. Breakfast photo by Drew Altizer, organizational photographer, courtesy of CHC.
Navigating the road from childhood to becoming a young adult can be difficult; this transition is even more challenging for the 1-in-5 youths dealing with learning and attention challenges. The Children’s Health Council — CHC — is a Bay Area nonprofit focused on helping children, teens and young  adults build strategies to cope with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder — ADHD — as well as learning differences, anxiety, depression and autism.
    
CHC has been helping Bay Area youths for several generations. “We’ve been around 65 years, which is pretty amazing,” said CHC Director of Communications Micaelia Randolph. Originally, the organization was the brainchild of Dr. Esther B. Clark, one of the first female pediatricians to practice on the Peninsula. Clark envisioned a center where every child could be shown the tools to reach his or her full potential, despite possible language or economic barriers. Volunteers and employees have been working to fulfill that vision since 1953.
    
CHC took steps to broaden their reach last summer with the acquisition of the Parents Education Network — PEN — a San Francisco based nonprofit. PEN was founded in 2003 by a group of parents struggling to find information and services for their children with learning and attention differences. The acquisition of PEN has allowed CHR the opportunity to create a presence in San Francisco and expand the organization’s reach to parents in need, as well as to educators looking to make a difference.
    
Previously a PEN event, the newly expanded CHC organization is currently gearing up for the 10th annual EdRev Conference happening in the spring. The 2018 theme is Awareness. Access. Action. The theme focuses upon awareness of the anxiety and depression that often accompany learning and attention differences.
    
This free event is open to the entire family and will be a full day of  workshops, activities and art in AT&T Park, April 21, 2018. The hope is to get ‘as many families and kids there as possible,” says Randolph. To help this happen, PEN is teaming up with Facebook to provide complimentary shuttle service from several stops along the peninsula to AT&T Park on the day of the event. For this year’s event they have a modest goal, match the number of attendees to previous events: two thousand. Randolph explained, “We want that number to go up” with plans for extended outreach before the 2018 event.    
    
The one-day conference will feature guest speakers, educational workshops, outdoor activities and a youth art show. For the first time, free 30-minute consultations with a CHC psychologist during the conference will be offered to all who are interested. The goal of the conference is to offer relevant information to students, parents, educators and professionals. Tickets for the event are free, but advanced registration is recommended.    
    
As a San Francisco-based organization, PEN had regularly held community education classes and lectures throughout the city, including one series at SFPL main branch that was focused upon the prevention of teen suicide. A speaker in the series, Rick Lavoie, described PEN and that speaking series as, “PEN enables parents and teachers to better understand  the other’s perspectives and work — together — in the best interests of the  child.”    
    
During the post-merger transition, there are no upcoming San Francisco lectures on the calendar. San Francisco classes will be “happening as we move forward with this collaboration.” Randolph said the organization “wants to do more things in the city, but we want to be thoughtful in how we reach out.”    
    
Community classes have already been offered by CHC, with a lecture season that runs from fall to spring, featuring weekly free classes and lectures with community members, clinicians, teachers and business professionals sharing their expertise and experiences. A majority of the classes are held onsite at CHC, with several more classes at various locations along the Peninsula and in the South Bay. Private and corporate donors sponsor classes. In addition to community classes, an extensive online resource library is accessible to the public.    
    
The organization also includes two schools in Palo Alto, Sand Hill and Esther B. Clark. Sand Hill is a private language and learning school for grades one through eight. The school works with students coping with dyslexia or other language-based learning differences. The goal is to prepare students for transitioning back to a traditional classroom for the duration of their education. Sand Hill offers needs-based financial aid on a case-by-case basis. Students travel from all over the Bay Area, including San Francisco and Los Gatos, to attend the Palo Alto-based school.    
    
Esther B.Clark is a nonpublic school serving students aged 7?16 with severe emotional and behavioral issues. Nonpublic schools are certified by the State of California to provide special education services to students struggling academically, who have severe behavior issues and social difficulties. In order to enroll in a nonpublic school, students must be referred by his or her local school district. EBC welcomes students from 35 districts in the Bay Area, with attendees coming from as far as Marin and Livermore. Students have a choice between two campuses, one in Palo Alto and a second in San Jose.   
    
More information about CHC, its merger with PEN, and the upcoming EdRev conference can be obtained by visiting the website at www.chconline.org/, or http://www.parentseducationnetwork.org/.

 
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