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$1 Million Fund to Expand Chicago Parent Mentor Program Statewide

Parent leaders Monica Juarez, left, with Southwest Organizing Project and Greene Elementary School, and Claudia Varela, right, with Logan Square Neighborhood Association and McAuliffe Elementary School.

When the school bell rings each morning, 300 parent mentors in Chicago roll up their sleeves and get to work side-by-side with teachers, leading the way to school improvement in 28 schools throughout the city.

The parent mentor model has improved student test scores and built strong relationships among parents and staff. As part of a team in their schools, parent mentors grow as leaders, transforming their schools and communities.Over the past 16 years, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Southwest Organizing Project have led the Parent Mentor program in Chicago Public Schools.  After a five-day leadership training, parent mentors work in the classroom with students four days a week, and come together as a group one morning a week for ongoing training and reflection.

On Wednesday, those 300 parent mentors, mostly immigrant and African American women, together with principals from their school, celebrated their graduation from the intense year-long program.

In honor of their efforts and the accomplishments of the program, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Southwest Organizing Project, and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, will announced a new $1 million fund to further expand the parent mentor program statewide in Illinois.

“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 the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Mozart Elementary School in Chicago.

Parent leaders with LSNA and Mozart Elementary School, from left: Ibeth Del Cid, Rogelia Aguilar, and Sandra Contreras.

“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,” he said. “Now I’m willing to put my whole, full, undivided attention to the school to do whatever it takes to make it more successful.”

Little said the program made him feel more positive about life in general.

“When you see you have the chance to become a parent mentor to help kids out and help the school as a whole, it actually changes you as a person,” he said.

The Parent Engagement Institute is based on the idea that the respect between parents and educators requires intentional relationship building. Parents are central to the educational system, not outsiders.

When schools treat parents as partners and welcome them into the classroom and at decision-making tables, the result is schools that engage students, increase student achievement, and become centers of community.

Posted in LSNA in the Media