By Rhonda Shackleford Ulmer, MarylandCAN Blogging Fellow
Parenting is my hardest—and most important—job.
As a single mother of three, I am my children’s biggest advocate. I do whatever it takes to make sure my children thrive in school and in life, just like my parents did for me.
So when I found out that the state was threatening to take over my children’s school, Van Bokkelen Elementary School in Severn, Maryland, because it had failed to meet the student achievement benchmarks required under No Child Left Behind, I took action! I met with the school principal to see how I could help as a parent. It became a school, parent and community partnership that made the network successful.
As the PTA President, I received parent training and a grant from the
Maryland Parent Leadership Institute to fund the Van Bokkelen Family Network.
The Network’s goal was to help families meet basic needs so parents in turn could focus on the academic needs of their children.
Fortunately we were able to work with a lot of community partners, including the local Boys and Girls Club, Southwest Airlines, Anne Arundel Community College, the YWCA, Maryland Food Bank and the Community Action Partnership.
Using the school as a hub, we provide the community with support and resources including everything from food for families from the Maryland Food Bank, to college and career preparation from the YWCA GED Program and Anne Arundel Community College TRIO Program. After three years of hard work, commitment and dedication from parents, teachers and community partners, I’m thrilled to report the school is no longer at risk for being taken over by the state because it made Adequate Yearly Progress, a key NCLB benchmark.
The success in the Van Bokkelen Family Network has only fueled my fire as a parent advocate. Inspired by the success of giving parents tools and resources, I started University for Parents, a community program to support parents through family education. And now as a School Reform Blogging Fellow for MarylandCAN, I am excited to continue exploring my ideas and perspectives I can translate my vision for great schools into a reality.
Parenting will never be easy, and neither will advocating for your children. But both are worth it. Our children deserve an education that sets them up for success, and we have the power to make that happen. As parents it’s up to us to make sure we are involved, we have a choice and know our rights.
You can advocate for your children by getting involved with MarylandCAN and also checking out the following resources:
Parent Teacher Association www.pta.org
Parents Place of Maryland www.ppmd.org (for parents with special needs children)
Maryland Coalition of Families for Children's Mental Health www.mdcoalition.org
Maryland State Department of Education www.marylandpublicschools.org