Families & Schools Together is celebrating our Czech Republic partners and recognizing their incredible hard work after the conclusion of the first two program cycles in the country – a goal that has been a long time coming.
In fact, this partnership traces back to 2015, when Richard Kořínek first experienced FAST while a Fulbright Scholar at Beloit College in the United States. His son was attending a local school in Beloit, WI, at the time, where they were invited to participate as a family in the program. As a former school psychologist from the Czech Republic, Richard said he found FAST to be “very interesting” and thought it could be useful back home.
After returning to the Czech Republic and starting a new job as a project manager at Palacký University in Olomouc, Richard began seeking funding opportunities. In 2019, a proposal to implement FAST was accepted for the “Operational Programme ‘Research, Development and Education’” with funding provided by the European Social Fund through the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.
The project launched in partnership with the Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology department at Palacký University in March 2020, with goals to translate FAST into the Czech language, train teams and trainers to sustain the program, and test and verify that the program works in the country over a two-year period. Then COVID-19 hit.
“I have been writing grant proposals and implementing projects for a long time,” Richard said, “but this one is by far the most complicated, mainly due to the global pandemic.”
Local school closures, national lockdowns and restrictions, and international travel bans and precautions significantly delayed plans, or prevented them altogether. Core FAST staff could no longer provide in-person, hands-on support. While the world seemed to pause, Richard, serving as the program coordinator, and his teams kept the project moving forward, completing the translation of FAST handbooks and training materials and having discussions with teachers online. In June 2021, the FAST Teams were finally able to gather in-person for training, with International FAST Trainer and Supervisor Elspeth Bromiley, who is based in England, guiding and supporting them virtually and, when possible, in person.
While “training teams internationally is always a challenge with different cultures and languages to contend with,” according to Ms. Bromiley, this situation was especially challenging. Nevertheless, by the end of September, two programs at the elementary (primary) school and high (secondary) school levels were underway.
“Please keep your fingers crossed for us,” Richard wrote to the FAST Office back in October.
Despite every challenge, the FAST Teams persevered. They successfully completed both program cycles, graduating 18 families and officially making the Czech Republic the 22nd country to implement the FAST Program.
“Richard Kořínek and his teams have worked incredibly hard ensuring the ‘fit’ of FAST for the Czech Republic and the programme fidelity,” Ms. Bromiley said. “The primary and secondary schools took on the impressive task of being the first institutions to complete FAST in the country. They completed this with energy and commitment, and it has been a pleasure to support them through this.”
The project is now expected to finish in Summer 2023, having been extended 11 months. If the pandemic permits, Richard said the plan is to recruit five more elementary schools and for each to run at least two programs. Overall, he estimates more than 100 families will be impacted.
“Congratulations to the graduates, teams, Mr. Kořínek, Ms. Bromiley, and all involved in this project, not only for your recent achievements but also for your remarkable perseverance and resilience over the last two years. This is a milestone shared by all of us,” said Families & Schools Together Executive Director Toni Rivera. “We continue to keep our fingers crossed and are hopeful for the future of this partnership.”
To learn more about the FAST Program in the Czech Republic, visit https://www.program-fast.cz.