It’s Not Always A ‘Class’ Thing…Kamille Pickens
Coming into my VISTA year, I wholeheartedly knew that starting a pilot program in a Title I school would be no easy walk on the beach. Prior to becoming a VISTA, I had spent 5 years working in several schools throughout the district, including a few Title I schools. From that experience, I figured that keeping students engaged was a relatively easy task, but that it may have been easier to have lunch with the President than to actually get a majority of parents involved. Now, almost 8 months in, I see that I have been correct in certain aspects, but I have also learned that Albemarle Road (the school we currently work with) is different.
While working in various schools, I learned that family involvement differed according to the socioeconomic background of the families represented at the school. Functions at schools that were mostly comprised of middle class families, 9 times out of 10, they would reach capacity. This was far cry from the turnouts at schools that were mostly made up of families with a lower socioeconomic status; where filling the first two rows of an auditorium would have been a success. Sure, there are many reasons for the disparities, such as work schedules and transportation. However, that does not change the fact that parental involvement in education is equally important for all students
Considering the horribly low outcomes that I’ve witnessed at other Title I schools, our turnout for Family Nights at Albemarle Road Elementary have been rather impressive. We have averaged about 120 family members each night. Though, it is somewhat low compared to the 1200 students they have, it is a success for a first year program. More importantly, there are about 15 families that attend consistently, and seem to be getting a great deal out of the programs offered. This led me to wonder the difference between Albemarle Road and other Title I schools that I have worked with. After further observation, I found the missing link- community.
The 1200 students and families at Albemarle Road are not just numbers in a book, they are part of a school that views them as extended families. Upon entering the school, families are greeted with smiles and staff ready to help direct them. In addition, the school offers many programs, such as Muffins for Mom/Doughnuts with Dad, Y Readers, Coffee with the Principal, & Target Pantry Night (where families receive free groceries), to involve parents and meet their basic needs. Therefore, they feel welcomed and are more inclined to participate in extracurricular school activities.
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