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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

This School Created A Parent University So Moms And Dads Can Learn To Be A+ Parents

The school plans to offer the parenting conference twice a year.

Children at the Holy Family School in Lawndale.
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NORTH LAWNDALE — There’s no handbook for how to be a good parent. That’s why one school on the West Side created Parent University, a one-stop-shop for moms and dads to sharpen up their parenting skills.

Holy Ministry Family School leadership wants the Parent University to be a twice-yearly learning and development conference that will ensure students have all the support they need at school and also at home. Over 100 parents and guardians attended the Saturday launch event Jan. 11, which was a major success for the school since many moms and dads previously struggled to make it to the quarterly Wednesday night workshops and trainings.

According to kindergarten mom Janique McCowan, it was hard to make the Wednesday workshops because of the countless duties that parents have to do on a school night like cooking, helping out with homework and getting the kids to bed. McCowan said the new event is much easier for her, and is packed with even more resources to help her support her child.

“The fact that they were inclusive in walking alongside parents in navigating our educational role with our kids, I just feel supported,” she said.

McCowan said financial literacy is a major challenge for many moms and dads in the neighborhood, especially first-time parents who aren’t yet experienced in budgeting for a growing family. She was happy to know that the Parent University offered a financial literacy class, because people often underestimate the power of raising a child in an environment that stresses fiscal responsibility, saving up for college and managing money.

Other sessions at the conference focused on tough skills that parents often don’t get enough credit for, like cooking nutritious meals, effective discipline strategies and encouraging reading at home. Sessions were led by local nonprofits and social service agencies including Taproot Inc., Open Books and Youth Guidance.

The Parent University also hosted a mentoring program and a group for dads to get together to support each others growth as parents.

According to Holy Family School’s principal Dr. Candace Smith, since the school has students from many different neighborhoods, one of the best parts of the event was giving the parents a chance to meet, network and learn from each other.

“The parents don’t get really a chance to get to know each other. So they were asking for an opportunity to get to know each other, too,” Smith said.

The event was also designed to respond to the needs that parents voiced through the School Advisory Board, parent-teacher conferences and the Parent Teacher Organization.

“Every child needs an educational team that’s fully wraparound. And if parents are asking for things, I think they need that support,” Smith said.

And though the first conference was only for families attending Holy Family, the school wants to expand the Parent University to include all moms and dads in the neighborhood who could use more support.

“In the future, due to the success of Parent University, we’d hope to open this highly successful program to more parents or guardians on the West Side who are wrestling with one or more of these topics,” said Holy Family CEO Cheryl Collins.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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