A parent first. That’s who I am, how I identify myself. My children are my pride, my joy and my contribution to the greater good. I offer no apologies for instilling in my children a thirst for knowledge and a drive to seek out the truth through education. And in this, I am not alone.
Right now in the city of Newark, New Jersey there are a growing numbers of parents who are quietly—and not so quietly—fighting to ensure that they have a choice in the type of schools their children attend. Parents who demand equity in school funding. Parents advocating for their children’s right to receive an open and engaging high-quality education.
The measure of that quality education for parents like me is determined by the excitement on our children’s faces as we share in thought-provoking discussions and lessons learned from the school day. It is measured in the conversations had with our children during walks home from school and at night around the dinner table.
I have always been an advocate for my own children. My parenting style is a mix of nature and nurture, crafted after watching my mother raise me. I hold the memories of her involvement close: The sight of her walking through the door at home after a long PTA meeting with the list of committees she had joined. Her attendance at every fall, spring and winter concert; smiling and mouthing the words to the songs she had heard practiced over and over again until they were just right. Her presence at each and every parent-teacher conference, asking the teachers the same question I ask my children’s teachers today, “What can I do to make sure my child succeeds in your class?”
This question has become a catalyst in my journey for advocating for my own children—an entry into important dialogue between my children’s teachers and myself. I believe that asking this question, absorbing the answer and implementing the teacher’s suggestions at home is one of the most effective strategies of parent advocacy, a moment where parents begin to understand their role and their power in shaping their children’s academic success. Being able to help your child succeed in school is parent advocacy at its core. I urge parents to always ask this question of their children’s teacher, and then join the parent organization at their children’s school.
I also urge parents to explore new ideas in how they can help their children and children in their local schools. Last year, I became a YouCAN Advocate with 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. The program gave me the tools and trainings I needed to launch a parent engagement project here in Newark, and to connect with more families in my neighborhood about how we can band together to advocate for all our children.
50CAN is now seeking applications for the second class of YouCAN Advocates. Find out more about the program and apply to launch an education project in your community.
I wear many different hats in my daily life and in my community. As I continue on my journey of advocacy, nothing makes me more proud than being a parent, first and foremost.