The Parent Mentor Program is a nationally recognized parent engagement model that builds deep and lasting relationships between students, teachers, and parents. In Osborn, the Program offers parents a small stipend to work in the classroom or elsewhere in the school to support students academically and connect families to resources. In 2013-2014, there are 3 Parent Mentors at Brenda Scott Academy and 2 at Osborn Evergreen Academy of Design and Alternative Energy.
In 2012, members of the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance Education Committee launched an organizing drive to increase the role of parents as decision-makers and school-to-home communication. The Committee, made up of parents and grandparents, held dozens of one-on-one conversations with neighborhood parents and students to understand the problem. They did a national scan of best practices in parent involvement structures, focusing on the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, the Parent Mentor Program, and the 9th Grade Parent Involvement in College Readiness Program.
Ultimately, the Committee chose to investigate the Parent Mentor Program further. They built a strong coalition, inviting representatives from United Way, Detroit Parent Network, the Office of Parent and Community Engagement for the Detroit Public Schools, Black Family Development, and school leaders from Brenda Scott Academy and all three small schools at Osborn High to visit the Chicago program. The group was convinced by their visit and came back ready to implement the Program.
Parent Mentors spend at least two hours (usually longer) working in the school, Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, Mentors meet together to get training and work collectively on issues they identify in the schools. At the K-8 level, Parent Mentors work directly in the classrooms, offering extra support for individual or small groups of students. At the high school level, Parent Mentors work with targeted groups of students who are “off-track” to graduation – in other words, they have failed classes in the past. Mentors help these students create a path to graduation and complete their necessary credits. At Evergreen Academy, the most current data shows that 96% of twelfth graders will graduate compared to 52% at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
The Program has three goals:
● To re-frame schools as centers of their communities, with positive, family-centered learning environments.
● To strengthen student achievement by drawing on parents and community as resources and creating more positive school climates.
● To build community leadership by opening doors to the talents and visions of parents.
Parent Mentors aren’t just focused on helping the handful of students in front of them. They are building the experience and collective power they need to push for systemic change. After one year of supporting students who are off-track to graduation in completing their credit recovery, Parent Mentors brought their new expertise and learning to the ONA Education Committee. They realized that too many students were getting to senior year behind in their credits, and something had to be changed in the system to stem this problem. After much research, the Education Committee is now proposing the introduction of a college readiness tracker and student planner at the high schools. Paired with an orientation for incoming 9th grade families, these tools can help students stay on track. You can read their policy proposal here.