This year’s theme, “The Future Is Now: Investing in Our Students,” was thoughtfully woven into all of the days’ sessions, beginning with a student performance during the introductory breakfast. Dashawn Rustin, a Cesar Chavez Parkside High School senior, energized the crowd and received a standing ovation for her empowered rendition of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.” Conference participants were also encouraged to share their own thoughts and reflections throughout the day by participating in a Twitter challenge, taking pictures to demonstrate the importance of their work around education, and writing on a graffiti wall what student investment means to them. (View photos from conference here.)
With this mentality, the team from Turning the Page let three parent leaders facilitate much of the workshop. They emphasized the need for parent engagement in any child’s education but also highlighted the personal benefits they have experienced with their increased involvement. All three parents are now leaders of their school parent-teacher associations, and one was recently appointed to the District of Columbia Public Schools Parent Cabinet, a representative board of parents that meets with Chancellor Kaya Henderson on a monthly basis. One mother, Dawn Bedminster, mentioned that she was encouraged to attend the first community night at her children’s school and said that she has “been there ever since.” She added, “I’m not sure where I’m going, but I’m going to soar…. I’m in it for the long haul with my kids.”
The importance of family and community engagement was highlighted in a number of other sessions throughout conference, including sessions about bringing community partnerships into the classroom, building family-school relationships through home visits, and using a data-driven and structured approach to districtwide community partnerships.