“The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficult situation.”
That Winston Churchill quote hangs in the hallway of the new Parent Education Center at the G.W. Carver Education Center in Frankford, which is aimed at helping parents do just that — see and find the opportunity.
The center has been designed to meet the needs of the community and, on April 7, parents, students and community members were able to tour the center for the first time.
“They seem very receptive,” said Nika Reid, the center’s coordinator. “I’m overwhelmed with excitement. I can’t put it into any other words. It makes me feel … that this is certainly a valuable resource that parents have been waiting for. Now, the doors of opportunity are open for everybody to just walk right through.
The center was funded through a $100 million grant through the Race to the Top Fund, provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
“For a long time, we have wanted to have more ways to interact with parents,” explained Indian River School District Superintendant Dr. Susan Bunting. “We’ve tried some of the usual ways, and we try to be creative in what we’re doing. When the Race to the Top grant monies came to us, this was one of the first things we thought about doing.”
Bunting said the district will be doing its best to meet the needs of students and their parents through various programming, and even surveys.
“I think that a lot of parents haven’t seen anything like this before,” said G.W. Carver School Principal Walter Smith. “And, certainly, the district has taken this first step to reaching out to our community, to say that we know we’ve been lacking, and helping to bridge the gap between our school and community.
“So we’re certainly going to do exactly what needs to be done in order to fix that. We will not go on any longer, we will not waste another day saying that we didn’t reach our parents, because we’re going to make every attempt to do just that.”
Among its many attributes, the center’s computer lab is stocked with 12 computers that parents may use to, for instance, search for jobs. The center will also be offering parenting classes based on feedback from parents within the community.
“We will be doing parenting classes, computer, literacy, English as a second language. When I went out to meet with some parent groups in the community, they were telling me that they were looking for parenting classes like setting boundaries for their children, so that’s one of the first classes that we’ll offer,” said Reid.
Reid said she hopes to begin classes at the end of the month, provided that the district approves it. Two class sessions will be offered; one in the morning and one in the evening, so as to best serve all parents.
She also said she hopes to set up a family focus group to brainstorm ideas for how the center can better meet the needs of parents.
“What I’m finding is that parents are looking for someone to hear them and just listen to what their needs are and to effectively identify them, and then provide the adequate services.”
As Reid interacted with parents and students at this week’s open house, it was clear that the services of the center are greatly needed and that parents can’t wait to get involved.
“It’s grand. It’s really good,” said Mary Johnson, one of many who toured the center. “I do an afterschool program, and kids need extra help. With this program, I think it would be a blessing.”
The program has been in motion for a year and is ready to hit the ground running, with no plans to slow down or stop.
“The vision is constantly evolving,” said Reid, “because the parents are really starting to come out and really speak out. ‘Oh, where have you been? We really need this.’ I had one mother stop me and say, ‘I hope this program is for real, that it doesn’t go away after the people go away.’ One of my co-workers said, ‘She’s for real. She’s really going to be working for you.’ So I’m excited.”
“We didn’t have a cookie-cutter formula for exactly what it was going to happen there. We have a good idea, but we also want to be open to what the parents would like us to do,” added Bunting. “We’re just very hopeful that this will strengthen our partnership with parents and it we’ll be better able help them to positively influence and be a part of their student’s experiences.”
For more information, contact Nika Reid at (302) 732-3800. The G.W. Carver Education Center is located at 30207 Frankford School Road in Frankford.