T&T parents get tools to create high performing children

Keron Les Pierre with Mariam Jones-Sprott manager online academic learning and Andrew Proudfoot CEO of Proudfoot Communications Ltd.

High performing children. Sounds dramatic but a local company has partnered with a local web developer and other experts to provide the tools that parents can use to accomplish just that. The Ministry Of Education-approved ‘GRAPES’ program (Good Remedies A Parent Should Exercise Socially) is an online six step programme that was created to provide parents with the best tips and best practices for raising successful children. The programme was launched in December 2014 by GRAPES For A Good Life Limited, which is an association of well-established organizations, working together to provide an innovative, full-service solution to raising successful children under the name ‘GRAPES.’ Each stakeholder within the GRAPES group specializes in the specific step/ course they manage within the GRAPES programme.

The GRAPES programme is membership-based. Parents and students must register on the website at to get an access code to use the array of online resources and support on child development and education planning for parents and students. In addition to the 6-step model, there are other resources for understanding different learning styles of children and multiple intelligences tests. The website is mobile and tablet friendly to facilitate access by persons using any device with an internet service. The GRAPES programme also includes an interactive chat-room for parents who want to engage in meaningful discourse with other parents or GRAPES consultants and stakeholders. Schools can create their own private chat-rooms allowing parents to network with other parents while keeping abreast of the various activities at their children’s schools.

Blink bmobile has also given its support to the program because the strong technology base GRAPES employs is consistent with blink bmobile’s promotion of ICT as a real transformational tool for individuals, families and communities. “As we lead the way in making 4G LTE wireless broadband access and the Internet more available to people outside of urban centres, the GRAPES program is an example of a high quality, easily accessible tool that levels the playing field for children and families in these communities” said Camille Campbell Chief Marketing Officer at blink bmobile. The company will be freely distributing access to the GRAPES program to thousands of customers.

GRAPES Programme creator, 28 year old Keron Les Pierre is not a parent but the question ‘why some parents have well behaved and high performing children and others don’t’ is one that has been engaging his attention for some time. He shared “I know many persons who have issues with bringing up their children and I’ve always wondered why and what can be done to help these struggling parents. This is the genesis of GRAPES, which is the Caribbean’s premium hub for raising successful children. We are the only organization which offers a one-stop, full-service solution to assist parents and their children.” GRAPES targets parents and children up to 15 years of age and focuses on three main areas: online academic tutoring for students, resilience counseling for students and their families and financial planning for a child’s education. Parents who register on the website will get these (3) services for their children.

Les Pierre explained “At GRAPES we prepare children today for the world’s top paying jobs tomorrow. We developed our 6-step model to help parents understand their children’s personalities and to match the top paying professions to the children’s personalities. We use multiple intelligences tests to find out what is the learning style of a particular child and then create a strategy or approach to help the child to cultivate an appreciation for education having found out what is the profession they will like to pursue. We then help to make the child’s education relevant around that interest.”

The online tutoring service targets children from early childhood to secondary school students with the aim of ensuring that the students are performing at international standards and are well equipped for the global market. The service uses the internationally recognized ‘IXL‘programme which offers students unlimited access for one year to Mathematics and English Language Arts modules. However, Science, Technology and Engineering modules will be integrated soon. GRAPES is a licensed operator of the ‘IXL’ program and has Educational Consultants to guide the students at each level within the local school education curriculum as outlined by the Ministry of Education, Trinidad and Tobago. Students can improve their academic performance on their own or with guidance from one of the registered educational consultants.

The resilience counseling is offered by Elder Associates Limited, a company which provides a full spectrum of psychological services to individuals, families and organizations. Dr Natalie Humphrey is a clinical psychologist with Elder Associates Limited. She explained that academic training alone is not enough. “It is important to include psychological support for a child’s resilience to ensure the child has sufficient coping skills to deal with the stresses of family problems and peer pressure among others. We provide support for overall mental wellness and healthy psychological adjustment for children. This includes their behaviour, their learning skills, their emotional functioning and the development of their peer and family relationships.” Just as you would take a child to a pediatrician for an annual physical to make sure that everything is developing well physically, the same thing goes for mental health for children. Dr. Humphrey noted “Children do have problems. They can have depression and mental health needs which should be addressed. Research has shown that children who are emotionally well, behaviorally well and have healthy relationships do better in school and higher education.” The resilience counseling offers an initial evaluation for all the registered children in the programme. This mental health assessment tests how the children are adjusting and recommendations are made to the parent to guide the child’s development. If the test shows that everything is healthy mentally, the children will see the psychologists once a year for an annual check-in. However, if there are any deeper issues, Elder Associates will provide any interventions or referrals required to help the child.

The GRAPES programme was first introduced in 2011 using a pilot test at the Centre Point Mall in Chaguanas attended by over 200 parents, principals and teachers from different schools in the central Trinidad, as well as the Chaguanas Mayor and Chief Education Officer at the Ministry of Education. The feedback form given out after the pilot test rated the programme 9.5 out of 10 points. Armed with this very positive result plus other feedback obtained from the market research, Les Pierre and his team decided to push forward and launched the service commercially in December 2014. The Ministry of Education-approved GRAPES programme will be now be rolled out to all schools during a nationwide school tour with blink I bmobile, which is a major sponsor and the official technology service provider for GRAPES. Packages with free access codes to the GRAPES programme will be distributed to parents during the school tour. The access code will give free access to all the online resources except the 6-step model. Packages have to be purchased for the 6-step model.

Other GRAPES service providers include First Citizens Bank Limited which offers the financial planning service, inclusive of a NEO child starter plan, the US Embassy via their Education USA programme which offers scholarships, financial aid and general guidance for studying in the USA and Proudfoot Communications which is the website design and development company for the GRAPES website.

Grapes for life website