Brandon--Sixth graders in the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union School District, along with their parents or caregivers, are invited to take part in a new youth and family education program designed to help them improve their problem-solving and communications skills.

The Strengthening Families Program Ages 10-14 is a free, seven-week program offered through PROSPER (Promoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience), a program of University of Vermont Extension 4-H, in partnership with the school district and community organizations. Sessions will be held Wednesday evenings at Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon, March 1 through April 12, and will include dinner for the family, incentives for attendance and free childcare for younger family members.

The program is open to sixth graders from Leicester Central School, Lothrop Elementary School, Neshobe Elementary School, Otter Valley Union School, Sudbury County School and Whiting Elementary School. Space is limited to 12 students and their families.

For more information or to register, contact Katie Wallett at (802) 247-6833, ext. 205, or kwallett@rnesu.org by Jan. 27. To request a disability-related accommodation to participate, call Kimberly Griffin at (802) 773-3349, ext. 276, by this date.

Participating students will benefit by learning how to prepare for their teen years, communicate effectively with their parents, deal with stress and peer pressure and avoid alcohol and drug problems. Parents and caregivers will enhance their parenting skills by learning to set limits, make house rules, encourage positive behaviors, handle stress and help their children understand the negative impact of risky behaviors.

Families will begin each session with a shared meal followed by breakout sessions for adults and youths. During the last hour, the families will reunite to increase family bonding, practice positive communication skills and learn to solve problems together.

In Vermont, PROSPER is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture, through a cooperative agreement with UVM. To learn more, go to http://helpingkidsprosper.org.

Sarah L. Kleinman