A few years ago, I had a friend who had two high school age children in the Prince George's County, Maryland school system. She would call me constantly to complain - about the principal, the teachers, the students, etc., etc., etc. So I finally asked her, "what are you going to do about it?" She didn't respond to my question, but kept complaining. I suggested that she join the PTA of which she told me there was none. I suggested that she start one. Although she was a stay at home mom, that never happened. You see, I have no tolerance for folks that complain who aren't part of the solution.
One woman in Prince George's County is attempting to be a part of the solution. Gerron Levi, (shown in photo above) a Maryland state delegate, gathered a group of church folk, businesspeople and youth in an effort to engage more parents to become involved with their children's education. The Washington Post article, Back to School -- for Parents highlights her efforts.
This will not be easy as the county's PTA council had its charter revoked by the Maryland state PTA for reasons that have not been disclosed. In addition, at the beginning of the past school year, almost 40 schools out of more than 200 in the county did not have PTAs. [This is troubling considering that Prince George's County is considered the wealthiest African American county in the nation]. So where are the parents? The article cites a study that volunteering rates among Prince George's residents are far above national and state averages. So are they volunteering everywhere else but the schools? It appears so.
As Levi addressed the participants, a number of obstacles were mentioned as a reason why youth have not participated in after school and tutoring programs: lack of transportation, students fighting, liability issues and a lack of interest. One attendee speaking about the fighting said "they were coming to physical blows...when we tried to break it down to learning, they lost interest."
A quote from a recent high school graduate who had once been a troublemaker summed it up:
"The most effective way to affect a youth is with a youth...I can't sugarcoat this. We don't want you [the adults] to help us. It comes off differently when someone from your own peer group comes to you and says 'stop'."
Read the article here.
Photo from washingtonpost.com
Another effort to increase parent and adult school involvement is by the Chicago based Black Star Project. Their Million Father March will post men near the front door of schools throughout the country on the first day creating an honor guard of strong, positive men supporting children as they go back to school this year. Philip Jackson, Executive Director, says that "when men are at schools, violence goes down and learning goes up."
Research shows that children whose fathers take active roles in their educational lives earn better grades, get better test scores, enjoy school more and are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. Additionally, children have fewer behavior and discipline problems when fathers speak with and listen to their children regularly and are active in their lives.
The Million Father March will occur in 131 cities this year. Visit the website for more information.