Updated: Mar 23, 2019
March 19, 2019 - Eight parents are taking the lead in transforming the Duval school community. Whether it’s creating a website to assist immigrants new to the school system or spearheading campaigns to destigmatize children with special needs, these parents turned child advocate are turning their small ideas into real solutions for children.
This is all thanks to Parents Who Lead (PWL) -- an initiative started by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, Duval County Public Schools, the Jacksonville Public Library and the Kids Hope Alliance. Through PWL, members learn to become an effective child advocate and take on projects to benefit children in the education system.
This first cohort will debut their projects shortly after they graduate on March 22, and gave us a sneak peek at what they’ve been working on.
Samet Kul has children in gifted classes. As a parent who’s never been through a gifted program, he didn’t know where to begin to get the right resources for his children. It was this struggle that gave him the idea to construct an online gifted parent portal.
“Programming was the easy part,” said Kul, a computer programmer by trade. “Finding the right resources for parents of gifted children was the hard part.”
Kul overcame this dilemma with the help of PWL organizers – they sat down together to find the right supportive articles and books for parents, as well as study materials for students in gifted programs.
Latrice Carmichael is another parent whose child inspired her project. Her son’s need for individualized attention in class led her to getting him an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is an education plan designed to help meet a child’s individual learning needs.
Her project, called Mommy, me and my IEP, is a series of campaigns and informational sessions aimed at taking the stigma away from IEPs. She wants to help others understand why IEPs can be crucial to some students’ education.
“There’s no standard child, but we put them to standards. And that’s why I’m doing this,” said Carmichael.
Richa Jethwani’s project is aimed toward immigrants new to the school system. Her idea to combine all education information -- from enrollment to how the classroom is set up -- into a single website came from her own struggles when coming to Jacksonville.
“You have thousands of questions in your mind,” said Jethwani. “I wanted to design a site where you can get all your information and find your answers.”
Tiffany Clark's project is called Parents at the Table (P.A.T.). P.A.T. consists of parents who work closely with government agencies and nonprofit organizations to bridge the gap between parents and the school community.
The committee meets regularly. Clark says these meetings give parents and city leaders the opportunity to have an honest dialogue and learn from one another.
"I find it interesting and alarming that parents rarely or almost never have the opportunity to ‘sit at the table’ and converse with city leadership on issues that directly affect and influence parents," said Clark.
Parents Who Lead program
Kul, Carmichael, Jethwani and Clark are four of 21 parents who were hand-selected to be part of the first cohort of Parents Who Lead. Each parent was selected for their background in advocacy.
The program consists of two phases -- each 10 weeks long with three-hour courses once a week. The first phase focus on personal growth and the second phase focuses on growth as a professional and advocate.
The projects above are scheduled to launch after the cohort graduates.
Applications for the program are now open. Click here for more information.