Remembering Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush’s philanthropy and advocacy has changed lives across the world. As a champion for literacy, she knew the boundless value in simply being able to read a book to your child, in being their first teacher. As we mourn the loss of this change maker, I wonder how many realize her far-reaching influence was felt in Collier County. Barbara knew all too well that Collier County has a large immigrant population, particularly in Golden Gate. That led her to Grace Place.

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy was a pivotal funder of the Bright Beginnings family literacy program. When the Foundation approached Grace Place about becoming a Barbara Bush Network Partner, the Bright Beginnings program was a one-day-a-week parenting and literacy class for mothers and their children.

The partnership afforded us the ability to enroll more families, to enhance our curriculum and assessments, and to increase the program to four days a week. This provided more quality time with the students, ensuring a deeper impact. As a Barbara Bush Network Partner, resources and relationship opportunities flowed. Grace Place gained access to research and information on new innovative strategies for the classroom. We continued to hone and develop the Bright Beginnings program, integrating selective practices from the nation’s top-performing programs. Ultimately this shaped our Bright Beginnings program into what it is today, a family literacy model that weaves the four pillars of family literacy, leading to indisputable, successful outcomes.

Bright Beginnings is now a nationally recognized family literacy program that enrolls nearly 300 mothers and children annually. We could not have achieved this success without the support of Barbara Bush.

Over these last few days since Barbara Bush’s passing, I have mourned, and I have watched my colleagues and our students mourn. The enormity of her far-reaching impact has truly hit home. She was beloved by the most powerful people in the world, and also by those who are finding their voice, by learning how to read because of her efforts.

Barbara Bush’ influence, and her confidence in our program catapulted Bright Beginnings to the next level. I couldn’t begin to quantify the impact that she has made for our families. She has unlocked a door to a bigger world for them by helping us provide our family literacy program. Her legacy lives on in all of us and especially in the Bright Beginnings parents who are now able to read a book with their child.

By Diane Ponton, Grace Place Director of Family Literacy