Parent University Turns 3

Kathleen Cei PhotosJoshua Mamis of the United Way of Greater New Haven sent this report on the most recent Parent University session at Gateway Community College.

Parents and grandparents streamed into Gateway Community College early on Saturday morning. They came to learn and network with other parents.  They came to share information.  But mostly the roughly 200 participants braved a blustery rain to find out what they could do to help their children succeed.

The parents and grandparents were participating in a day of workshops and classes put together by New Haven Public Schools, which were supported by Boost!, United Way’s partnership with the city to support student’s non-academic development. The event, which marked Parent University’s third anniversary, featured everything from how to create hands-on games designed to help kids learn, to classes on applying for financial aid for college and budget coaching. There was also a workshop looking at the impact on children who have family members in prison.

Parent U is part of NHPS’s efforts to engage families and the community to give students the support they need to succeed. It takes place twice a year – in fall and in spring – and is supplemented by neighborhood sessions throughout the academic year.(Read more about Parent U here and here.)

“We know what a big impact parents have on their child’s academic success,” Laoise King, vice president of education initiatives at United Way of Greater New Haven said. “Parent University gives parents the skills they need to be great leaders, advocates, learners and teachers for their kids.”

To make sure that parents have the opportunity to attend, the school district offered free child care at Coop High School. Parent University also provided translators for Spanish speaking attendees.

“It’s an excellent opportunity to network with each other and teach others the skill sets we’ve learned,” Garrett Munroe, pictured, said.

“Everything is of value,” Elizabeth Antrum, pictured, said. Antrum is a great grandmother of two and a member of the group Grandparents on the Move and she said she’d picked up useful tips at Parent University on helping children develop their reading and math skills.

Classes averaged about 20 attendees who were engaged, involved in discussions, and focused. “What You Need to Know About Paying for College” provided the ABCs of applying for scholarships. “You have to hustle for scholarship money,” presenter Suzanne Lyons said. “I tell students, if there was $1,000 on this table, you would do what you could to come get it.”

A workshop called “Homework, Habits and Hugs” gave parents advice about how to help manage their child’s homework load. Parents and grandparents also grabbed scissors and glue for “Supporting Your Child’s Reading: Hands-on Activity.” 

There was a lively sharing of tips and a discussion of saving for a rainy day and about bank fees at the session on family budgeting. Presenter Laurel Laster stressed that saving for an unexpected event “is huge.” She also advised against spending cash. “You can’t track cash,” she said. “You can’t look back at what you spent to put together a realistic budget.” Parents also had questions about Common Core and approaches to problem solving and math skills at the “Supporting Your Children’s Success in Math”.

Toccara Harris, pictured, said that Parent University gave her useful ideas to do different activities, especially with reading and letters. Harris’s mom, Brenda, also gave Parent University a thumbs up. “Great workshop,” she said.  “Great speakers.”

Parent University is made possible through collaboration among many partners, including New Haven Public Schools, the City of New Haven, New Haven Promise, the United Way of Greater New Haven, Boost!, Gateway Community College, the State of Connecticut Department of Education and many others.


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