October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Faulk Middle School in Brownsville ISD goes all out for their students, hosting a mother and daughter presentation in conjunction with the ACE/21st Century Community Learning Center of Texas Southmost College

Alongside their mothers, youngsters at Faulk received valuable information from community health workers. They also had a chance to relax, drink pink lemonade and have cupcakes. The goal was to turn a serious and oftentimes taboo topic into something easier to talk about. If breast cancer is caught in its earliest stage the survival rate is nearly 100 percent.

“We have been doing this for years and every year it gets bigger,” Faulk Middle School Principal and TSC alumna Benita Villarreal said. “It’s all through word of mouth, the little girls are supposed to recruit their moms to come over, and they get to wear pink and get out of class. It is a fun event, but it is also significant in our culture. To talk about this health issue and cut through the stigma of this topic and self-examinations.”

The annual event is a strong bonding opportunity. Mothers visit campus where their daughters are taken out of class to hear from health professionals to talk about the importance of monthly self-examinations and being on top of health.

Planned Parenthood’s Marisol Medina was the keynote speaker at the brunch. She spoke in Spanish to the crowd to ensure the information was understood to all participants.

“I do appreciate the moms coming out here with their daughters,” Medina said. “They understand how important it is for us to know our bodies at all ages…cancer is for all. In our community there can be many barriers, especially regarding health. The most important thing is to know their body, hear their body and get themselves checked.”

She also had models of breasts with different stages of lumps to show what to look for when self-examining. Families were able to take home miniature versions of the models

Roberto Maciel is the site coordinator for the 21st Century Program at Faulk Middle School. He helped organize the event, which he said grew in participation compared to last year’s version.

“We want everyone to understand the importance of this subject,” Maciel said. “You never know which moms or daughters are going through this. It is important for them to have this knowledge, even at this young age. It can happen to anyone, like the presenter said there are even cases in men.”

The family engagement aspect is a major part of 21st Century Program. The Program is federally funded through 21st Century Community Learning Centers and administered on the state level by TEA.

“With 21st Century I love the idea that we work together with the students and their families,” Maciel said. “It’s a small community in a mostly Spanish-speaking area. The presentation is in Spanish and that’s the way we can connect best with our families. There is a stigma with this topic, so it means a lot.”

One of the most emotional moments of the morning was when parents started to open up during the question and comment portion. One parent shared her story of battling breast cancer, her surgery and the victory of being five months in remission.

Funded by Texas Southmost College Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.