Lynbrook Elementary School in Springfield, Virginia, designed the Family Leadership “Hopes and Dreams” program. It is an intensive multi-year, multi-phase effort that helps families understand why and how they are important partners in their children’s education. It also builds parent leaders and helps parents feel more confident about guiding their children’s development and learning across the grades.
The school, Pre-K-6, serves a large number of Hispanic students and families. Many families want and need skills and strategies to support their students at all age levels. Similarly, schools want parents to know how important they are to their children’s education and that they are a valuable part of the school community.
Phase I of Hopes and Dreams is a 41-session parent education program to be held twice a week for parents and their children aged birth to 5 years. Sessions can be conducted in Spanish, depending upon the population. Phase II starts in August. The same mothers meet twice a week for one month. Each participant teaches a lesson based on the curriculum of Phase I. These sessions also stress the importance of parental involvement and help parents understand the school’s expectations for their school-aged children. At the end of Phase II, the mothers will select a volunteer activity to conduct in the school, a church, library, or playground in the community. Phase III enables the same leadership group of mothers to teach, volunteer, and practice their leadership skills within the school and to recruit and train other parents to join in.
As we know, many families can not afford childcare, making it difficult for the mothers to volunteer in that phase of the program. To solve this problem, a Family/Parent Coordinator can organize a “Mommy and Me” class every Friday or any other day of the week. The mothers who complete the Hopes and Dreams can conduct the program. They can plan the classes, prepare the children’s activities, bring or arrange for snacks, and choose books for parents and children to read. This serves two goals. It provides parents with a place to come with their children to practice their leadership skills and it can serve as a childcare co-op where mothers could drop off their young children while they volunteer as part of the program.
Mothers who complete the Family Leadership Hopes and Dreams program can log many volunteer hours at school as recess monitors, cafeteria aides, clerical assistants, and in other helpful roles. They will have become active participants in the ever-growing program of family and community involvement at school.
Family Leadership Hopes and Dreams will usually begin with a new set of parent leaders each Fall. The first group will move on to Phase IV with additional educational sessions as they are scheduled as presenters of talks on family leadership and involvement to others. The average program cost is about $8,000 a year, which can be paid for with funds from Title I, Title III, and special Grants or similar funding sources.
The collaboration, cooperation, and sense of ‘community’ that develops can be sustained and aligned with a school’s mission, vision and the curriculum which must be respectfully responsive to the diversity of students, staff and families in 21st Century educational environments. The best programs that we design and implement will thrive under two conditions: parent empowerment and student achievement framed by safe and supportive warmth of the school environment. Achievement is the goal and parent engagement, partnerships and leadership is the most effective conduit where “Hopes and Dreams” thrive.