Mar 17, 2023
The early years are indeed the most important. However, not all children enjoy education as a
key aspect of their development , especially those from developing countries . Interestingly, the
United States also has certain regions and states actively lagging behind and playing catch-up,
despite the country’s policies on child growth and formal education. Therefore, it is a huge
delight when personalities like Olga Hickman take up the challenge to aid child development and
education through collaborative efforts in Bachman Lake Community.
Background to Olga’s Vision (Bachman Lake Together)
Olga has always been passionate about teaching. She started her pursuits with a background in
the public education sector as a classroom teacher for many years. And that was a precursor to
what she is doing today. Interestingly, she has her bachelor's and master’s degrees in education.
And her educational background was in the early learning space and support for students who do
not speak English as their first language.
Soon after, she went on to spend some time at the University of Texas at Austin for 12 to 13
years in the professional development space with literacy initiatives. Recalling her experience
and training, Olga noted, “All of the backgrounds [I had] focused on how the early years of a
child's life support their academic achievement later.” And this, undoubtedly, is a clear depiction
of what she is doing today.
Furthermore, in her academic pursuits, she proceeded to get her Ph.D. in education from UT,
Arlington. Her area of focus for the dissertation was Latino Parent Involvement in Early Child
Education. Thus, there is a clear connection at Bachman Lake Together. It is like a full circle
with the work they do, using the community's assets to prepare the parents or to bring a new type
of learning for the children. All so that the parents can be more involved in the decisions made
for their children's education.
How Bachman Lake Together Came to Be
Now, the emergence of Bachman Lake Together as a vision is prompted by a desire to support
parents in the growth of their children. The concept was first started by bringing partner
organizations to support the cause in 2009-2010. However, soon enough, things took a different
turn and the idea of collaborative support became a full-fledged operational organization in itself.
When she came in after the transition, Olga explained that the focus "was to follow more of a
collective impact model where Bachman Lake Together would be the convener that would bring
others together to collaborate. But our emphasis on our focus would be to still have that north
star of kindergarten readiness and early learning space so that we can prepare an entire
generation or an entire community towards success.”
What Bachman Lake Together Stands for
Bachman Lake Together is not the main actor. Instead, they are largely responsible for bringing
together many collaborative partners to achieve the common goal of helping with a child's
educational development. And they do this with the involvement of parents in the training
exercises. Olga said, "So we are not a direct service provider. We are responsible for bringing
people together to achieve the same goal." Thus, the bulk of their operations hinges on
convening organizations, nonprofits, schools, and anyone providing those services to children.
And when they seal these collaborative deals, they help the training organizations to promote
registration into the system. Or sometimes, they actually run the registration themselves.
Furthermore, they offer more specialized training based on their peculiarities to certain parents.
This kind of tutoring takes the form of a generational model where families learn alongside the
children. Olga explains, “So if you consider that for many of these parents, the parents that we
serve or the families that we serve are immigrants to the United States. So they may not be
familiar with our school system.” As a result, for many of these parents unfamiliar with the
United States' educational structure, Bachman Lake Together provides extensive training. And
the organization leverages her resources to introduce them to topics such as a child's brain
development, what a kid pre-kindergarten is, and why their child needs it. Also, they sensitize
them on touchpoints like the forms they need to enroll their children in these programs and
where they can get to register too.
For a more specific aspect of focus for Bachman Lake Together, there is the area called
Community Action Network. This is a biweekly nine-month series where these parents,
essentially moms, are exposed to knowledge about the US school system and the decision-
making processes involved. This is to make the parents feel safe and comfortable enough to
include their children in the program. And this area of their work has revealed several things that
impede children's participation, such as early learning space and language justice.
Objectives The Organization Intends to Achieve
Given its prowess, Bachman Lake Together has surely raked in some feats in the child education
space over the years. However, according to Olga, “the bigger goal, the bigger vision that we
have is for all children to be prepared for kindergarten and through that identifying area that we
need to grow in. So we knew that we needed to expand early learning opportunities." The
implication is that there is a need to bring out the Pre-K three in schools that do not have them
In the same vein, Olga expressed that the team has "grown from about a hundred seats to over
1100 seats that we can provide to the children in our community. So that has been the bigger
goal." That is, not only should the children know about the importance of preschool learning, but
they should also have access to it.
Also, more inclusiveness is another key goal for the organization. For example, some parents are
group directors, and some are on working committees. This creates avenues to listen to them and
have them participate in the grassroots administration of their children's learning. So, in the
coming years, Olga affirmed that the organization is looking to grow in this capacity.
Are There Upcoming Projects?
To further strengthen kindergarten readiness among the children, Bachman Lake Together is
planning an enrollment event in April into the Pre-K training. Here, the kids would be taught
what is needed to get ready. Similarly, there is the establishment of the prenatal to three. And
this is to bridge the knowledge gap that parents have with medical explanations backing up the
need for Pre-K early learning time. There was a massive drive in 2022 in this regard, where over
1100 books were shared on the developmental choice of children in the community. And there
was also the inclusion of five medical clinics in Bachman Lake. However, in 2023, the
organization is looking at a bigger event and sensitization program. Thus, Olga noted that they
are always looking for opportunities to engage more corporations and volunteers with families.
Moreover, there is the monthly volunteering experience for community volunteers, where
conversations about what should be happening in a child's life are brought to the fore. These are
called PACT events. These are largely door-to-door events asking people if they know about pre-
k and getting children and parents to register. And they would continue in the year.
Lastly, there is the Back To School fair in August. Here, donations are made to ensure that
students who need backpacks and other essential items for effective schooling and learning get
them. Shouldn’t this initiative be commended for setting children up for success?