By: Tiffany Rodriguez
February 28, 2020
Community Champion Blog Series: This Q&A blog series is a new initiative launched by Tiffany Rodriguez, NOW Program Coordinator, to uplift the incredible leaders walking the walk by leading social change and creating communities where children and families don't just survive, they thrive. Nominate your local community champion here!
Community Champion: Altorice Frazier, Newark, New Jersey
NOW Learning Community Coalition: Essex County Council for Young Children
Initiative: Parents Engaging Parents
Q. Why did you start Parents Engaging Parents? What is the mission of Parents Engaging Parents?
Parents Engaging Parents (PEP) was formed from the dire need of advocacy from the parent voice and choice to be leaders in our children's educational experience. In many aspects, our children’s educational experience continues to be threatened daily through battles with budget cuts, teacher turnover, educational methodology, mental health, and public safety. While examining these battles within education, we realized building a seamless beloved community is a key component of making a long-standing change in education and our communities. PEP is geared to promote civic awareness and proactive advocacy based on the interest of parents and guardians. Through PEP, parents and guardians learn they have the power to improve their lives and the fact that they are vital stakeholders in their community.
Q. Altorice, you have been an incredible community champion for your community. What is one key change in your thinking about the role that parents can play since starting Parents Engaging Parents?
We must see parents as partners, not as clients or customers purchasing products. Just because we become parents doesn’t mean we stop being beloved community driven leaders. If anything becoming a parent opens our eyes wider to the need to make the world a better place for our children. By having our children see us civically engaged we are creating a cultural norm.
Q. What’s been difficult or challenging in the process of engaging parents? How do you overcome this and what advice might you give to another community leader who is looking to engage the parents in their community?
The relationships between parents and stakeholders is the most challenging process. The top down approach with parents does not work. I often hear educational institutions refer to parents as “our parents” -- this puts parents into a position of being a raw material to be bought. We all have gifts to share; parents have to be partners of implementation in all aspects our interest, even if there are skills that need to be sharpened.
Q. If the NY Times were to write a front page article about your community and the Parents Engaging Parents Program, what would you want for them to say? What would you want for the world to know about the impact that parents can have in their community and in their children's life?
I would want them to say... Parents Engaging Parents is a seamless community of parents from across the state of New Jersey from such counties as Passaic, Hudson, Essex, Mercer and Atlantic counties, who organize their thoughts, ideas, and actions together to build the power to push their interests. These parents participated in workshops and social engagements, to build strong collaborations. I want the world to understand parents are the first teachers; when organized they are full stakeholders in their communities. Parents Engaging Parents is a driven community of parents who are not just thinkers; we are doers and definitely leaders.
Q: Where can we find out more about your organization? You can find out more information at Parentsengagingparents.org