This month, our featured family story is told through the perspective of an inspiring teen! Gabriela Rodriguez-Townsend was introduced to The Family Dinner Project through our work with FCCLA. We’re pleased to feature Gabriela and her family in the month of February, with a special nod to Gabriela’s own personal service project, which uses family dinners as a platform to help other teens learn about healthy relationships.
Gabriela Rodriguez-Townsend, 15; her parents; and siblings Anthony (19), Daniel (8) and Isabella (5). The Townsends live in Pflugerville, Texas.
Gabriela says that the family’s shared goal is to eat together and enjoy one another’s company more often. Her philosophy is that family dinner should be “a priority, not a privilege.”
She’s taking that a step further by working on a month-long service project at her high school, Project Love. Through workshops, hands-on projects and community involvement, Gabriela is teaching her classmates about ways to cultivate healthy relationships “whether it’s a friend, sibling, parents, teacher, lover or a random person they meet.”
Within her own family, Gabriela says the biggest challenge is a familiar one for most busy families: just getting everyone together at the table! However, she has also recognized something happening among her peers that she hopes to tackle through her Project Love efforts. Citing an obsession with pop culture and general negative sentiment among her fellow teens as they grapple with world events and social media, Gabriela says:
“The main thing that inspired me was the lack of qualitative relationships in my home, friendships and community. Week Four of Project Love has a theme of Family Connections, and I decided that since family is foundation, why not start together at the table?”
To help her own family spend more time together at the table, Gabriela asks everyone in advance to help with dinner ideas, so there’s no last-minute rush to figure out what to cook. She also says “My family dinners tend to be super short, so we try to use TFDP conversation starters to keep everyone wrangled in for a bit longer!”
As part of Project Love, Gabriela is teaching workshops to students at her school to help them bring a family dinner experience to their own homes. She’s teaching other teens how to plan and prepare a simple meal, and providing conversation starters and additional recipes as a gift they can bring home to their families.
The one meal that brings the whole Townsend family to the table in a hurry is their mom’s special chili recipe!
Gabriela says that she hopes that through Project Love, her classmates will learn from her that “to get respect, you have to give respect.” She’s inspired to pass that message along by her belief in the importance of family and her learnings from The Family Dinner Project.
“Family is most definitely the foundation of any child’s life. The Family Dinner Project showed me that to be successful in life, a bond with your family is important.”
The Best Part:
For Gabriela, the best part of family dinners is being able to share her accomplishments with her family and receive their praise and support. She says her younger siblings enjoy the attention they get at the table for telling jokes, and her parents have developed an appreciation for the way family dinners keep her eldest brother close to home.
We congratulate Gabriela on her outstanding efforts in her school and community, and are proud to feature her and Project Love!
Do you have your own family dinner project to share with us? We’d love to hear from you and consider featuring your family! Contact Us.