This is a series of profiles of people making Oakland Smarter and Stronger.
Lola RockwellBrown and Sauda Burch, African American Parent Advisory Council
Since 2016, OUSD’s Early Childhood Education Department has partnered with High Expectations Parental Services, through the Smart and Strong Kids project, to offer a series of kindergarten readiness workshops to families of African-American students. Families who graduate from the series createAfrican-American Parent Advisory Councils at their own schools.
We sat down to talk to Family Engagement Facilitator Lola RockwellBrownand Sauda Burch, an aunt to two preschoolers, who recently completed the workshop series.
Lola, tell us about the importance of these workshops. The data reflects that the higher the parent involvement, the more success the child will have in school. It is the major factor that makes a difference. You can have a child at a poor-performing school and if the parents are involved, they will do fine. So, through these workshops we help parents get involved and we help the whole family get ready for the first day of kindergarten.
Lola, after the parents go through the workshops, they share their knowledge and leadership through the AAPAC. Why do you structure the program in this way? Creating a platform for parents to participate draws out natural parent leaders that are already there, but just haven’t been identified. When parents are together in the workshops, they create a bond and know they’re not alone. Having a collaborative of parents that have built community in a school system and taken on leadership creates better opportunity for success for all the children.
Sauda, why is it important to you to be involved in the early years of the twins’ schooling? The children are away from home 7 to 8 hours a day. What happens during those hours is important to who they become. All of the routes are being laid down now. The foundation for who they’ll be socially, what they’ll be excited about is being created now.
I want school to be a place where they are seenand where they thrive, and a partnership between the parents or caregivers and the teacher is important for that. I know also that kindergarten readiness is important to their academic success and I will do my part to ensure their readiness.
Sauda, what do you hope to share with other parents as a member of the AAPAC? How important it is for parents to be in partnership with teachers; how it impacts your child’s education and their experience of schooling. Also, how to develop a plan for what you want to talk to the teacher about. I’d like for parents to see themselves as leaders of change in their children’s school.
My conversation with the twins’ teachers at this age is really “do we see them?” The character these children are building and how they’re able to navigate conflict and use their voice – that’s what I’m concerned about right now.
Lola, what do you love most about this work? My joy is bringing some ECE on the scene that parents weren’t aware of. Often, parents get validated or they get excited that they were doing the right thing all along. Do you know what that does for a parent? It gives them the confidence to keep putting in the effort, which can make all the difference for their kids.