“I didn’t run through my obstacles. I jumped over them. And I remember where I came from.” Shayvonne Anderson
“If we don’t collaborate, our kids won’t be successful.” Tafshier Cosby Thomas
“ Most successful students have bought-in parents.” Troy Still
“I am the example of exercising parent autonomy.” Nicole Harris
“It’s more than just a school. We all know each other and lean on each other. It’s a community. “ Ruthven Haneef Auguste
“A lot of people in Camden, they choose the dollar over the career. I don’t have many friends who went to college — I can count them on one hand. It’s different now.” Jabbar Wilkins
These are voices from Project Ready’s Fourth Annual New Jersey Parent Summit, which I attended this past weekend. You’ll be hearing more from these parent power figures over the next two weeks as I write up interviews. They are parents from NJ’s most troubled school districts: Newark, Camden, Plainfield, Paterson, Trenton. They are parents from both charter schools and district schools. They are parents who treasure their autonomy to make the best educational choices for their children.
Appropriately, the slogan for this conference was “The Power of Us.”
The Summit started Friday evening in New Brunswick with a night of networking and camaraderie at a nearby restaurant where we saluted organizers Shennell McCloud and Gerard Green.
Starting early Saturday morning and continuing through noon on Sunday, over 300 parents attended sessions at the Heldrich Hotel like “Raising Financially Savvy Kids and Achieving Financial Freedom,” “Achieving Success for Marginalized Students,” “Raising the Bar: Increasing Family Participation in Your School,” and “How Families Can Cope with Grief.” There were “Fireside Chats” with Newark’s West Side High School Principal Akbar Cook, Education Post CEO Chris Stewart, Mya Martin Cadogan, Executive Director of DC Pave, Tafshier Cosby Thomas, Newark School Board members and Councilwomen, and After-School All-Stars Director Nicole Harris, all centered on “The Power of Us.”
Saturday night was the traditional gala, chocolate-themed this time, with keynoter April Ryan, White House correspondent and CNN political analyst. On Sunday morning, attendees partook in yoga, martial arts instruction, self-care sessions, and a workshop on raising grant money for projects.
(Then I went home and collapsed. Not sure what everyone else did.)
Here’s the point: Parents in New Jersey, particularly those who have been historically-marginalized, are energized, organized, and cognizant of the power they yield. They are committed to ensuring that their children have access to high-achieving schools and great teachers. The oft-cited “charter school wars” in New Jersey are mere semantics: A public school is a public school, whether it be charter or traditional.
The Power of Us. The Power of Parents. The Power of Children with Powerful Parents. We can change the world. We’re doing it right now.