As National PTA’s focus on the Urban Child for the month of October came to a close, there was one additional stop that we wanted to make on the information train: Chicago, IL. The Illinois PTA and Chicago Region created an opportunity for PTA leaders, parents and community residents and leaders to come together and have a dialogue focused on strategies for family engagement as a means to address the violence plaguing the city of Chicago. PTA National Service Representative Nore Hare was in attendance and says the event was certainly a success.
One Voice: Tell us a little bit about the event. What was it?
Nore: The facilities of Black Star Program hosted an open dialogue with parents, PTA leaders and the community as a whole to discuss strategies for family engagement and the impact it might have on the violence in Chicago. There was a predominately male board of panelists including our very own National PTA president, Otha Thornton. Having such a strong male presence was very encouraging.
One Voice: Describe for us the overall experience. How was the turnout of attendees?
Nore: The turnout was great. There was an opportunity for interested parties to RSVP, however, there was an overflow of people who did not RSVP but still made it to the event. In a space with the capacity of about 75-100 people, the place ended up pretty full with 60+ parents in attendance. There was definitely more patrons than we were expecting. In addition to the great turnout, the crowd participation was enlivening but the time crunch was quite paralyzing, which limited some of the topic coverage.
One Voice: What were the key messages presented?
Nore: One key message talked about engaging more families in every facet of communication, school and communities. This helps bridge the gaps of misunderstanding. Another key message was making sure that the audience knew that PTA is a proven model to success in many ways. We also informed them about the Every Child in Focus campaign and its importance along with showing parents what family engagement looks like. Our last-and one of the most important-key messages was reinforcement of NPTA’s mission. It is imperative that they know what we stand for and what our goals are as an organization.
One Voice: How can these messages be implemented by those who were in attendance?
Nore: They can join the PTA, volunteer and get engaged in kids’ schools. Parent and community involvement is the only way some of these problems that the children face are going to get resolved. Parents can also participate in other dialogues at the local levels and attend legislative events at the state level so that they can be informed about what is going on and take action on those things that are not quite right or unfavorable to the education and well-being of their child.
One Voice: How can other states and PTA units get involved with Every Child in Focus?
Nore: The number one way they can get involved is to understand the vision and mission of ECIF. Once they are familiar with that and understand the purpose of the campaign, then can help host an event. There are numerous, creative ways to do that such as youth summits, parent cafes, etc. They just have to come up with ideas that cater to the audience they are trying to reach.
One Voice: What tools and resources were provided?
Nore: We provided an urban dialogue plan of work that each family can use to set plans and goals for their home to improve family engagement. There was “Why PTA?” information available about the association and all that is has to offer. We also provided membership card so people had the ability to join the PTA right there on the spot. Other resources included information about how to engage where you are and attendance of essential community members such as police officers, business owners and an alderman to answer any questions they may have.