The 5 W's (and H) of the Parent Mentor Program

The ACE Project is excited to announce our partnership with the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) as we implement the Parent Mentor Program. Though we have mostly focused on out-of-school time activities previously, the Parent Mentor Program aligns us closer with our partner, Riverdale/Dolton School District #148, as we work together to increase parent volunteerism across Kindergarten through 3rd grade-levels. Overall, we believe that families are the backbone of individual success; by reinforcing the relationships between students, their families, and their communities, we will close the achievement gap that limits opportunity and success. So, who, what, where, when, why, and how will this make a difference? We have the answers!

WHAT is the Parent Mentor Program?

Based on over 20 years of running local Parent Mentor programs, LSNA and SWOP have developed the Parent Mentor Program as a strategy to support kids in early grade classrooms, foster deep and long-lasting parent-teacher engagement, provide a support network for parents to pursue their dreams, and eventually leverage community resources and support for neighborhood schools. LSNA has trained more than 2,000 parents in Logan Square schools since the Parent Mentor Program began in 1995; through their efforts, they improved students’ focus in the classroom, capacity for teachers, graduation rates for schools, empowerment for parents, confidence for mentors’ kids, and involvement in the broader community.

WHERE will the Parent Mentor Program be implemented?

The ACE Project chose Washington Elementary School in Riverdale and Lincoln Elementary School in Dolton as the pilot sites for the Parent Mentor Program. This fall, both schools will also run our tennis-only program after-school.

WHO will be involved in the Parent Mentor Program?

This year, The ACE Project promoted Dedra Burnett and Melanie Stamps to oversee all aspects of programming; they have both served as a mentors, advisors, and leaders for The ACE Project since our inception, and we are looking forward to learning even more from them as we grow our impact. Denise Sanders and Delval DeSavieu, both dedicated community members, agreed to serve as Parent Mentor Coordinators at Washington and Lincoln Elementary Schools, respectively. They will be responsible for recruiting, mentoring, training, and supervising the team of Parent Mentors. And, of course, this program would not be complete without the Parent Mentors: Ella DeSavieu, Fatimah Dorsey, Shearie Hayes, Dominique Johnson-Green, Zakette Smith, Angel Thomas, Loree Washington, Raymond York! These individuals will be volunteering in a designated classroom, attending regular workshops and trainings, and finding ways to demonstrate their leadership outside the classroom. We also want to thank the principals and teachers at each school for their commitment to this program; it wouldn’t be possible without teamwork!

WHEN will the Parent Mentor Program run?

The work has already begun as training is well underway for our team; however, the mentors begin in the classroom on October 9th, and the program will run throughout the entire school year. Parents Mentors spend two hours per day for four days in the classroom during the course of a semester; the fifth day is set aside for continuing skills development and space for reflection and support.

HOW will the Parent Mentor Program be implemented?

According to the LSNA website, “The goal of the Parent Mentor Program is to build leaders in the home, the school and the community.” Our mentors start with a 15 hour training, which focuses on relationship-building, leadership identification and development, support, creating safe and nurturing school communities and an introduction to basic duties and responsibilities within the school. Following training, Parent Mentors are placed in a classroom to work alongside a teacher with students either individually or in small groups; they will work in the classroom for a minimum of 100 hours over the course of a semester and upon completion of these hours, will receive a stipend. The stipend helps professionalize the program and helps build soft work skills like timeliness, consistency and accountability.

WHY the Parent Mentor Program?

“It takes a village to raise a child” is a proverb often used to reflect back on community influencers throughout formative years; however, as is often the case in underserved communities, the “village” can lack essential resources and/or human capital to assist in positive youth development. As a result, a child’s physical, social-emotional, and academic growth may be stunted, creating even greater barriers for future success. The Chicago Consortium on School Research (CCSR) identified 5 categories for improvements in students' learning gains through their 2015 report “A First Look at the 5Essentials in Illinois Schools”: effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment, and ambitious instruction. According to the CCSR website, “Utilizing 15 years of data, researchers at the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research found that schools strong on at least three of the Five Essentials are 10 times more likely to improve in math and reading.” With the addition of the Parent Mentor Program, The ACE Project is able to fulfill all 5 of the essentials at elementary schools where youth were previously under-performing in these areas; as such, we anticipate an improvement in math and reading scores year over year.

Aside from the benefit for youth, The ACE Project sees this as an opportunity to improve local parents’ leadership skills, educational experiences, and community involvement, which will directly benefit our organization as it will increase the number of qualified individuals to lead the academic enrichment, social-emotional learning, and homework assistance aspects of our comprehensive program. Already, there has been so much excitement around this program among parents, teachers, and school administration; we can’t wait to get into the classroom to bring our enthusiasm to the kids!