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JCCC Stories

iPads move migrant children toward secure future

November 3, 2017

There’s even an app to help break the poverty cycle.

There’s an app that can help students who are part of migrant families moving to Johnson County. These students and their entire families can learn life skills using iPads, thanks to the generosity of a local church, Johnson County Community College and Migrant Family Literacy Program grant funding.

JCCC helps support about 35 families a year by offering the Migrant Family Literacy Program at Center of Grace in Olathe. In a nutshell, the 20-year-strong program coordinates educational services designed to meet the literacy and assimilation needs of migrant families. The program’s intent is to help with the families’ urgent needs so their children have the best possible start for a successful life.

“JCCC developed a partnership with Grace United Methodist Church many years ago. The Center of Grace is ideally located in a community where many recent immigrants live,” said Janice Blansit, program director of Johnson County Adult Education. "A Migrant Family Literacy grant, with strong support from JCCC, Center of Grace, Grace United Methodist Church and a myriad of other public and not-for-profit agencies, provides a broad range of support services that are especially well-suited to meet the needs of residents new to this area."

We’ve got an app for that

As part of the support offered to each participating family, each family is assigned an iPad loaded with technology resources, apps and literacy materials from public libraries. During a monthly home visit from a Migrant Family Literacy Program staff member, families can:

  • Download eBooks for all family members
  • Download literacy and educational applications
  • Use these applications, including Rosetta Stone, to supplement what the adults learn in English as a Second Language classes

“We download apps according to the ages and interests of family members,” said Elizabeth Canabal, JCCC coordinator of the Migrant Family Literacy Program. "We have educational apps including games for the kids and a library app."

The iPads have the same operating system used by the Olathe school district, so homework can be completed on them, too.

“The kids usually teach the parents how to use the iPad after we give them instructions,” Canabal said.


To qualify for MFLP, adult family members must be working in agriculture and must have moved into the area within the past three years.

For the past 20 years, JCCC has received a federal grant administered by the Kansas Department of Education to support migrant family literacy.  Johnson County Adult Education has also applied for and received annual grants from the Dollar General Foundation. The Dollar General resources enable MFLP to provide age-appropriate books and other literacy materials for all migrant family members.

“Our families are offered a rich set of tailored resources to help them succeed,” Canabal said.

Migrant families also receive support from these programs:

  • Monthly home visits – Caseworkers visit families to review the health and well-being of all members and to promote literacy and a love of learning. Each child receives age-appropriate books and literacy materials, and parents are encouraged to read individually and with their children. Employment status, progress in school and individual challenges are also discussed, with a focus on building self-sufficiency and problem-solving skills.
  • English language classes – Adults in the families attend Johnson County Adult Education ESL classes while their children attend on-site preschool classes. Preschoolers focus on learning English and kindergarten-readiness skills.
  • Center of Grace support services – Participating families may receive food, clothing and household items as well as specialized individual assistance such as transportation or referrals to community resources when needed. 
  • Dental health care – JCCC’s Oral Health on Wheels visits Center of Grace at least twice a month to provide free cleanings, X-rays and other dental services, including preventive care.
  • Health screenings – Bilingual volunteers screen adults for blood pressure and blood sugar levels and make referrals and medical appointments as needed.
  • Personal and academic coaching – Johnson County Adult Education transition coaches are available to help set attainable educational and career goals and to identify forms of assistance including financial aid.
  • Financial literacy, tax assistance and coaching for establishing a home child care facility – MFLP leaders seek out experts from local agencies skilled in providing financial literacy classes. Assistance with tax returns (in both English and Spanish) is available to MFLP families through a partnership with El Centro. Also, through the Olathe school district’s Parents as Teachers program, participants can obtain free help in setting up a licensed child care center to boost family income.
  • Life skill classes – Weekly workshops focus on goal setting, contingency planning, budgeting, healthy eating, menu planning on a budget, self-care, how to write a résumé, interview skills and healthcare consumer awareness. 

A community that cares

November is Family Literacy Month. If you are a member of a migrant family or know a family who could benefit from JCCC and Center of Grace programs, contact Elizabeth Canabal at 913-764-1353.

A brighter future could be just around the corner!