23-year-old La Crosse Resident Cota Hernandez is teaching her 2-year-old son the importance of getting an education.
"He's a smart kid," said Hernandez. "He catches on right away. He knows all of his body parts. He can do his ABCs."
Cota is focused on little Adrian's development because she wants him to understand that as a high school drop-out she's learned education is something you can't take for granted.
"I want to be a good example for him," said Hernandez.
So, Cota is getting help from the HOPE family education program located at the Oak Grove Family Learning Center in Brice Prairie to complete her G.E.D.
"We serve young moms ages 14-25, roughly, who are either working on a high school credential or an alternative credential," said Tricia Brainard, HOPE Family Education assistant director.
The HOPE program provides young moms throughout the Coulee Region with academic instruction and employability skills.
"Most of the students who come to us need alternative learning," said Brainard. "They didn't make it in the sit in a row, listen to the teacher. And so we do a lot of work with video, a lot of direct instruction, conversation, discussion, dialogue... things like that."
The program also provides these young moms with one hour of parent education every day on topics like developmental milestones, discipline and communication.
"We want our parents to know that they're the most important teachers of their children," said Brainard. "And so we want them to embrace that role. And that needs explicit instruction."
"They've helped me out so much just knowing the development in stages of where he should be at. Where other kids were at. Like, how his brain functions. Why he does the things he does," said Hernandez.
"Ultimately, we're working on the next generation," said Brainard. "So that those young children go to school ready to learn."
And with education being the key that can break the cycle of poverty, the HOPE program is reaching out to the entire family until they can get their feet on the ground. And for Cota it's changing her world.
"This is just a great program to be in," said Hernandez. "You go at your own pace. You get the parenting. You get the education that you need. It's just all around a great place. I can't stress that enough."