WASHINGTON PARK — Navigating the public school system can be a difficult, solitary task for students and parents. It’s easy to get swept away in an endless sea of paperwork and meetings, especially when you don’t have resources to help.
Joseph Williams wants to change that. And, if all goes according to plan, next month’s inaugural Parent Conference at Beasley Academic Center will be filled with families ready to learn while sharing their knowledge and experience.
“In order for parents to help their children, they need certain resources so that they know how to help them,” said Williams, director of the Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club, a nonprofit created to get Black fathers more actively involved in the lives of their children.
As chair of Beasley’s Parent Advisory Council, the married father of five has seen what happens when a school has a team of parents ready and willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work; after years of struggling, Beasley reached Level 1 status last year, meaning it is in excellent standing.
“A PAC event averages about 30 to 40 parents, more if food is involved,” joked Williams, who was recognized as a “4-Star Chicagoan” by Windy City Live in 2018.
Williams does what he can to keep parents engaged, like keeping the designated Parent Room open so that they can use the computers to work or study.
After the success of a recent Math Night event, Williams wondered if he could recreate it on a larger scale, offering panels and workshops on topics like financial literacy and IEPs (Individualized Education Plans). Once he got the green light from school administrators, he tapped into his network to find guest speakers and volunteers.
To that end, Williams has lined up an impressive list: Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) will be in attendance, as well as Khalil Everage, who starred in Netflix’s “Beats,” a 2019 film about a Chicago teen who forms an unlikely friendship with a music producer. Staff from Brookfield Zoo will host a “Nature and Play” workshop, and representatives from the University of Chicago (a conference sponsor) will be presenting on Social-emotional Development.
If the conference goes off without a hitch, Williams wants to make it an annual affair.
“We’ll take what we learned this year and build on it, make it better,” said Williams.
The Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club Parent Conference is from 9 a.m.-3 p.m on Saturday, Feb. 22 at Beasley Academic Center, 5255 S. State St.
Tickets are $20 per person or family. For more information, email Joseph Williams at Mr.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson was initially scheduled to attend, but will not be in attendance. This story has been updated.
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