Parent Engagement Program
Alexis Prince has one simple, but incredibly important goal in her life.
“I want to be a better parent to my daughters,” said the young mother of 10- and 12-year-old girls. “It’s easy to say that, but sometimes you need help to make it happen. It was important to learn what was going on in my school district; to get involved.”
Alexis found the assistance to meet her goals through the Delta Health Alliance (DHA) and its Parent Engagement Program within the Deer Creek Promise Community (DCPC). Over a two-month span, Alexis and six other parents underwent training conducted by the successful Parents for Public Schools program.
“We understand that it can be a challenge to get parents involved,” said Kristen Hurns, program manager for DHA. “We want to equip parents with the tools to be advocates for their children and to take on a larger role in their children’s lives at school.”
Through the Parent Engagement Program, parents were exposed to a host of important lessons to help them and their children. They included:
- Learning how local school boards function and their roles as parents in engaging school board members with concerns and ideas.
- Understanding the college preparatory curriculum to assist their children in graduating from high school and entering college, including entrance exams and financial assistance.
- Examining statistics from student testing and comparing those with other schools in the state and nation to understand where their children rank with other students as they work toward graduation and college.
- Learning about community organizing as a means of shaping their schools to provide their children the highest quality education possible.
- Exploring school funding to better grasp how it affects the overall education of their children, including extracurricular activities.
“We wanted these parents to see and understand more than just what happens in the classroom,” said Hurns. “It would be beneficial to parents to know how to engage teachers and have knowledge of the political and social factors that shape the public-school environment.”
For Alexis, the program taught her how to more effectively communicate with her children. “My coach, Chiquikta Fountain gave me new ideas for that, but also showed me how to deal with my school when I have problems or concerns. Who do I talk to and how do I make my voice heard?”
The program has energized her and other parents to volunteer more of their time to improve their schools, she said. “Every one of us is part of the school system and we have a responsibility, not only to our kids, but to all the students. It’s our job to make sure they all succeed.”
Future plans call for shifting the Parent Engagement Program to a different structure that will involve the entire family, said Hurns. “It’s important that parents and students, and even children who haven’t yet started school, all understand that each has a role to play to be successful.”
That philosophy is reflected in DHA’s highly successful school mentoring program called CARES, or Children Are Reaching Excellence with Support. Begun in 2013 in Indianola, CARES is now establishing itself in Leland and Hollandale, as part of DCPC. Like the Parent Engagement Program, CARES in the Deer Creek community is creating another system of support for students.
“In everything we do, we focus on what’s good for the community as a whole, and ways to involve all of our community members,” said Hurns. “Better, more active parents, mean a stronger community and more successful students.”