Parent Involvement Conference Brings Community Together
Mount Vernon, NY
Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) grantees often sponsor special events in the community, and find that these events are powerful communications tools. Special events can make a splash in the community, garner media attention, and generate new partnerships. Staging a special event is an effective way to bring diverse members of the community together to address a theme or issue important to community members while promoting initiative goals.
“There are lots of good people here in Mount Vernon, and there is a high level of care and involvement in the community.” |
Member, Parental Involvement Committee, Mount Vernon City School District SS/HS, Mount Vernon, NY
The Mount Vernon, NY, SS/HS initiative organized a parental involvement conference in October 2006 that brought together more than 200 community members. Parents, teachers, community organizations, businesses, and local government officials who had never worked together to support parental involvement participated in the conference. The event was organized by a 20-member Parental Involvement Committee composed of parents, board of education trustees and representatives from each Mount Vernon school. The community and schools have always placed great importance on active parental involvement in their children’s education. This conference supported this priority by emphasizing the importance of active parental involvement to education.
Collaboration was Key to Success
The conference succeeded because it was a collaborative effort. A diverse planning committee worked with the school district, community leaders, and grassroots organizations, including presenters from within the school system, law enforcement, and more than 10 community organizations and government institutions, giving the community ownership of the event. As a planning committee member, Charles Jarvis said, “There are lots of good people here in Mount Vernon, and there is a high level of care and involvement in the community.”
A member of the Parental Involvement Committee said that the “purpose of the conference was to educate parents and show the importance of education.” With this clear purpose, planners were able to choose workshop topics addressing youth related issues of primary concern in the community, including gang awareness, bullying, risky behavior, current drug trends, developmental stages of adolescence, navigating early childhood, financial planning, talking to children about sex, and even how to select positive toys.
The SS/HS project director sits on the Parental Involvement Committee and currently serves as its secretary. This committee was started in the spring of 2006 by one of the Board of Education trustees. Its goal is to promote and increase parental involvement.
Unique Approaches to Encourage Participation
The Parental Involvement Committee also implemented an effective campaign to attract more than 200 participants. The biggest hook was a nationally recognized leader in education, Joseph Dulin, who gave the October conference keynote address. In addition to being an educator for more than 50 years, Dulin is an advocate of parental involvement in the lives and education of children and a founder of National African American Parent Involvement Day. Local educators and community activists attended the event because they were aware of his professional accomplishments. In his address, Dulin echoed the purpose of the conference by calling on parents in the Mount Vernon School District to advocate for their children’s education. He told the audience: “Teachers don’t teach kids without your involvement.” Dulin was featured prominently in a brochure and flyer publicizing the conference.
To ensure a large turnout the Parental Involvement Committee provided child care, meals, translation services, and activities for children. Structured activities organized for school-aged children included a storyteller, a fire safety lesson, and music. A group of children performed a song entitled "Striving for Excellence" for the conference participants, which was written by a local parent.
Lawn signs placed on school grounds and in the yards of committee members caught people’s attention. The planning committee distributed flyers with a personal invitation to parents and found this was more effective than asking students to take home impersonal flyers. The Mount Vernon SS/HS Newsletter also promoted the conference in addition to a newspaper article discussing parental involvement in a number of school districts, and a school district cable television broadcast.
One Conference Made a Difference
The Parent Involvement Conference is yielding positive results. A child care provider in the community became active in the Mount Vernon Early Childhood Network after her involvement in the conference. Also, the Parental Involvement Committee, which plans to make this event an annual activity, decided to rotate its monthly meetings around the city because of the interest the event generated. It has held meetings at three schools to attract additional parents. Ellen Garcia, the SS/HS project director hopes the event planning committee meetings will be a forum for sharing successful practices and in the process empower additional parent leaders in the community.
Encouraged by the success of the conference, the Parental Involvement Committee helped promote the 2007 National African American Parental Involvement Day, celebrated on the second Monday in February. This day had previously been promoted by the Mount Vernon Parent and Community Forum on Education, a local grassroots group which joined the Parental Involvement Committee in organizing the 2006 Powerful Parenting Conference. The spirit of collaboration is thriving in Mount Vernon.
Communities on the Road to Success: Mount Vernon, NY
Mount Vernon SS/HS builds upon the work of the Mount Vernon City School District and Mount Vernon Community That Cares coalition to provide a comprehensive and integrated delivery of programs, services, and activities that address all aspects of student health and safety. It provides programs and services at the District high school, alternative high school, two middle schools, and six elementary schools with additional programs for the preschool population and their families. Active parental involvement is central to the work of the Mount Vernon SS/HS initiative.