CHICAGO – “Every time a new parent enters the Parent Mentor program,” says Logan Square Neighborhood Association leader Martha Juarez, “I think to myself, ‘that is one more family saved.’”
Every morning, her team of parent mentors—mostly Latina immigrant women—roll up their sleeves and get to work side-by-side with teachers, giving students the individual attention they crave and leading the way to school transformation.
NBC’s 2012 “Education Nation” National Summit featured the Logan Square Neighborhood Association Parent Mentor Program this week.
A parent mentor video also aired on The Today Show on Monday morning. Patricia Lopez, Joanna Brown, and Soo Hong will be participating in the New York Summit.
Education Nation will highlight 10 case studies of “focused solutions” from around the country that have seen “demonstrable results.” The Parent Mentor Program will be the first case study to appear on the program.
“While there are huge challenges facing the American education system, there are countless examples around the country of solutions— successful programs that are getting results,” said NBC News President Steve Capus.
“One of our goals this year at ‘Education Nation’ is to shine a bright light on some of those success stories to help communities around the country replicate those successes,” he said.
The Parent Mentor Program is rapidly gaining momentum as a new model for parent engagement in schools. Logan Square and Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) are uniting to form the Parent Engagement Institute (PEI) to provide training and support for schools and community organizations looking to deepen their parent engagement work.
This year, the Parent Mentor Program will be up and running with 500 parent mentors in 50 low-income schools across Illinois, the majority of which will be part of a new pilot program through the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the Illinois State Board of Education.
The CPS Community Schools Initiative is also working with the PEI to scale up the Parent Mentor Program. A new program is sprouting up in rural Colorado.
The 16-year-old LSNA Parent Mentor program trains parents (mostly immigrant Latina mothers, and increasingly African American parents) to work in classrooms daily, tutoring struggling students.
Schools that have partnered with LSNA have benefitted in raised test scores, warmer school climates, and happy students and families. The Parent Mentor program has been a key to building parent-teacher relationships, involving parents in the school improvement process, and running the after-school Community Learning Centers run by LSNA.
“Now that I see what goes on in the school day to day, I see there’s a lot that principals and teachers have to deal with,” said Adam Little, a parent leader with Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) and Mozart Elementary School.
“At first I was the one to hold a lot of animosity towards teachers and administration; now I want to see what I can do to help. Now I’m willing to put my whole, full, undivided attention to the school to do whatever it takes to make it more successful,” he said.
The Parent Mentor Program is the subject of two books (A Cord of Three Strands: A New Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools, pub. Harvard Education Press 2011, and A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform, pub. Oxford University Press, 2011).
The Logan Square Neighborhood Association’s mission is to convene networks of neighbors, schools, businesses, social service agencies, faith communities, and other organizations to collaborate for thriving communities. LSNA is committed to empowering and maintaining these communities as diverse, safe, and affordable neighborhoods in which to live, work, learn and grow.