HARTFORD —— The Hartford Parent University will soon be in session.
The parent-led group, founded by Milly Arciniegas, will offer free training this weekend to city mothers, fathers and guardians on how they can become leaders and advocates for their children in the public schools. The parents will be taught by other Hartford parents.
And while the goal is to "empower" families and connect them through a network, Arciniegas said, there will also be a financial incentive for those who stick with the program.
The first bilingual session is planned for 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Capital Preparatory Magnet School. Workshop topics range from "The Road Map to Graduation (K-12)" to "Monitoring Your Child's Progress: What Are Assessments?"
Two other Saturday sessions are scheduled for January and May, and monthly classes are also in the works, said Arciniegas, a parent advocate and the nonprofit organization's executive director. "The challenge now is getting the word out."
On Tuesday, many of the 16 parents who were trained to be workshop facilitators wore medals around their necks and cut into cake after a modest graduation ceremony at Capital Prep. Each attended nine sessions throughout the summer on areas such as cultural proficiency, navigating the school system and "How Parents Can Use State Mandates For Greater Impact on Student Learning."
Parent facilitators will receive a $100 stipend for completing their training and additional stipends for leading classes, Arciniegas said.
"If I can motivate one parent to motivate their kids, then maybe tomorrow that kid won't be called a statistic or a criminal," said facilitator Ivette Diana, president of the Hartford Parent Organization Council, a coalition of the city's parent-teacher organizations.
There will be a $200 stipend for parents who attend at least 10 classes and commit to being active at their child's school, according to the group's website. A graduation for those earning a "parent leader certificate" is set for June.
Hartford Parent University received $15,000 in startup money about two years ago from the Hartford school system to hire a consultant to help implement the idea. But unlike the Boston school system's Parent University, a model for the Hartford group, Arciniegas said her organization is run independently from the district.
The group is seeking grants and private donations to support the workshops and incentive programs. John Soto, who owns Space-Craft Manufacturing in New Haven, donated funds for Saturday's inaugural session and to create the website, Arciniegas said.
Achieve Hartford! Executive Director Paul Holzer said engaging parents is crucial to education reform. Improvement may develop inside the classroom, but "it's sustained outside the school system," he said.
"That's the way it has to be," Holzer told parents Tuesday. "It's going to be you all, looking around at each other, saying, '... Let's do this together.'"
The state Department of Education recently invited some school systems to apply for one of two $125,000 state grants that must be used this academic year to establish "parent academy" programs in their districts in partnership with community groups.
Hartford school administrators chose another city organization, the nonprofit Parent Academy — or La Academia Para Los Padres — as the lead partner for its grant application that was due Friday. The group was founded in 2009 and offers English literacy classes at night for Latino families.
Hartford parents may register for the Saturday session at http://www.hartfordparentuniversity.org or by calling 860-209-5522. Free child care, transportation and lunch will be provided.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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