By Grace Merritt
Parent advocate Milly Arciniegas is tired of hearing that Hartford parents are not involved in their children’s education. That was her impetus for starting the bilingual Parent University.
In recent years parents have formed the Hartford Parent Organization Council and pushed for legislation that gives parents more of a say in making over failing schools, she said.
Now Arciniegas is about to take parent involvement to a new level with the Parent University.
Modeled after a successful Boston program, the Parent University in Hartford will offer parent-led courses on such subjects as helping children with reading skills, strategies for taking the Connecticut Mastery Tests and college readiness.
The Parent University group got $15,000 in seed money from the Hartford school system and another $25,000 in an anonymous grant. The group also plans to apply for funding from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
Parent leaders will begin training as workshop leaders at the end of July and the program will launch in October, Arciniegas said
The parent-led group wants to teach parents how to navigate the school system, serve as leaders and help their children succeed. Workshops will be offered in Spanish and English three Saturdays a year at Capital Preparatory Academy along with monthly sessions at various schools.
“The value of this is for parents to increase their knowledge of how to advocate for their children’s education and also for them to pursue higher education for themselves,” Arciniegas said. “For example, if a parent doesn’t have a GED, we want them to be inspired to get it.”
Arciniegas, 41, the mother of two boys, aged 15 and 20, is working with Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto to make the program sustainable. The workshops will align with the school’s curriculum.
While the Boston Parent University program is run by the school district the Hartford one will be led by parents.
“We knew we needed to be more independent to get more of a buy-in from parents. This is a place of their own where they can teach each other,” Arciniegas said.
The education reform legislation passed this year includes the establishment of a pilot parent university that would be locally designed and conceived.
State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said details of the pilot program are still being developed, but added that he believes that involved parents are a critical component of academic growth and achievement.
Pryor said his department is also working on initiatives to add parent-teacher communication technology and family resource centers also aimed at furthering parental involvement.
For more information on the Hartford Parent University, call (860) 209-5522.