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Family Empowerment Nights at Walton Focus on Improvement, Not Perfection

There were times in David Stimage’s life when he didn’t think he was enough. He didn’t think he was a good enough man, or a good enough father to his daughters. He barely had a place to sleep. That challenging time in his life helped to provide perspective to nearly 90 people gathered in the Walton Charter Academy (WCA) gym this month for his Family Empowerment night.



“I shared part of my testimony when I had an eye-opening moment with my daughters,” Stimage, who has been an Achievement and Behavior Specialist WCA for three years, said. “I didn’t have anything. I was staying with someone, I just had a mattress, the lights had just got cut off, and my girls wanted to come over to see me.”

He couldn’t imagine why. There were no toys to play with, no television to watch, just him.

“They came over and we had a flashlight and they said, ‘We want to stay with you forever.’”

The point was clear to him: They wanted to spend time with him. The other things didn’t matter.



“The thing your kids want the most is absolutely free,” he said.

Things are more stable for Stimage now with his wife LaToya and four daughters Ah’ Layah Stimage, 10, Nevaeh Stimage, 8, Nyla Honorable, 8, and Brielle Stimage, 1. It’s something he’s quick to point out when he hosts the monthly family nights: it’s about quality time, not necessarily the quantity of time.

Stimage has been hosting the events for the past two years and each evening centers around the acronym VALUES: Vow, Accepting, Leadership, Uplift, Engage, and Sacrifice. Short lessons or points are shared about each word and how it relates to parenting.

For a recent evening, fathers were given Ring Pop candies to give to their daughters and were encouraged to relay a vow to them.



“Daddy will always be here for you, I love you,” Stimage said to his daughter Nevaeh, 8, while kneeling in front of her. Other fathers followed his lead, creating a connection with their daughters.

Walton principal Mona Boersma said Stimage’s passion and sincerity for Family Empowerment makes all of the difference.
 
“He makes the information relatable and meaningful,” Boersma said. “His care and the relevant information bring in the crowds of families and keeps our team excited to participate and support the program.”
 
Boersma said they hope to expand the number of participants once the weather warms, so they can do some of the more physical games and activities outside.
 
“Most parents are eager to participate,” Stimage said. “There’s a little nervousness about wanting to do some of the things in front of other people, and I’ll usually be the first example. Once I’ve got them to open up and share a little bit, they’re usually more open to dancing and running around.”



Energizing activities meant as icebreakers start the events. Stimage said Sharks & Minnows is a popular game with the group and it’s not uncommon to see a grandma running around with the parents and kids.

Attention is paid to understanding each other’s circumstances within the group. Children are told about struggles their parents might have with work, money, and relationships. Parents work to understand the challenges their kids have each day with classmates, teachers, and peer pressure. No matter the size of the group, Stimage tries to make that connection.

“I thoroughly love doing it,” Stimage said. “I want the opportunity to impact parents. When we started off it was like 10 parents and now, we’re consistently hitting 80 to 100 at each event. I feel very blessed to have people taking part.”

The events are free to the public and the school helps fund food for participants.



Stimage said he wants to share his struggles with others so they can know they’re not alone, but also learn how to move forward together.

“I’m looking for a way to impact families,” Stimage said. “How can I get parents to understand the basic foundation of parenting? I don’t have it figured out. Every day I’m trying to become a better parent, trying to figure it out too.”

Schools that are interested in starting a Family Empowerment program can email Stimage at 26.dstimage@nhaschools.com, or call at (248) 875-1353.

Walton Charter Academy is part of NHA, a charter school management company in Grand Rapids, Mich. with 98 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 60,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.