Vineland parents, kids talk bullying, friendship

SUN PHOTO BY TOM CHANG Earnest Slayton, an All Pro Dad, and daughter Caitlyn attended the final Family First meeting Thursday at Vineland Elementary School. Children and parents gather monthly during the school year to talk about bullying, kind deeds and more.

ROTONDA — Ted Flagel became an All Pro Dad because he felt it would be a good bonding experience for him and his daughter Kate.

Jenifer Van Buren became an iMOM to be more involved with her son Christian.

All Pro Dad and iMOM chapters at Vineland Elementary School met together Thursday to celebrate the end of the school year. All Pro Dad and iMOM are part of Family First, a nonprofit organization devoted to bringing parents and children together to talk about bullying, being gracious, selflessness, money, friendships, cheating and more.

Van Buren and Flagel have been involved with the programs since the school year began.

“It feels good because it brings the school together,” Van Buren said. “It gives parents some time to spend with their kids and see what other parents appreciate about their kids.”

“It gives our daughter, Kate, confidence,” Flagel said. “The program encourages us to take the kids out and do things with them outside of school and to really connect with them. That’s a really good thing.”

Rachel Baker started the iMOM chapter. She teaches kindergarten at Vineland. Ray Baker runs All Pro Dad.

“We just continued to have an influx of families come each month,” Baker said. “We hold two meetings per month — one for the moms and one for the dads. Both bring their kids. We just steadily are able to get them in and we have topics that we talk about anywhere from bullying, finances, bike safety to ‘parents are cool.’”

Attendance averages 50 to 80. Thursday’s meeting topped out at 100.

Family First is the parent organization of iMOM and All Pro Dad. Rachel found out about it online.

Ray said he got involved as a way to improve his sociability as a father.

“A lot of times, you’re not really great as a parent, and as a man, I’m not great at starting conversations,” he said. “So this is a time to get together. Not just bonding, but it’s a great conversation starter to have conversation about life skills or the type of stuff you don’t normally talk about. It gets easier over time.”

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office staff gave bike safety demonstrations, “not just to put helmets on the children, but to explain to the parents how important it is that they be good role models by wearing a helmet,” said Dale Phillips, civilian crime prevention specialist. “Get them to do the right thing by wearing helmets and obeying the rules of the road.”

Phillips said when she quizzed parents on bike hand signals, half of them were wrong.

“How can they expect their children to know the correct hand signals?” she asked. “So we went over rules for the parents. Most of the parents thought you ride against the traffic. You don’t. You ride the bicycle with the traffic. You walk against the traffic.”

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SUN PHOTO BY TOM CHANG Jenifer Van Buren, Charlotte County Sheriff’s Deputy William Miller and Christian Van Buren participated in the final Family First meeting of the school year at Vineland Elementary School Thursday.


About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News,, and Tampa Tribune.
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