Who is involved and How Are They Organizing?
There are a number of grassroots organizations working to increase parental and familial involvement in schools. Some of these Lawrence based organizations include Lawrence Community Works, Youth Development Organization, Our Future Our Schools, and Lawrence First Development. Nationally these organizations include La Casa De Con Pedro, SPEAK, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, and Latino Youth Development Collaborative.
The primary methods of these multi-issued organizations include programs English for Advancement classes for adults that help teach English and also work on getting jobs or better jobs, community planning, financial aid clinics, DACA forums, neighborhood clean ups, film screening and festivals, Marketplace meetings, providing high-quality educational activities, and personalized opportunities for success.
The main way these organizations are working to increase parental involvement is by providing access to the culture of power. A lot of communities the aforementioned organizations work with are underserved and marginalized. As such, in order to increase their access and voices in schools and to help establish deeper ties between schools and communities, these grassroots are tackling barriers communities face in contributing to institutional change.
These grassroots organizations while dealing with many issues specific to their communities, have a plethora of intersecting issues. One of the main issues they all address is increasing student achievement through the development of strong community networks. This manifests in programs that are targeted to students, parents, and the community members respectively.
The obstacles faced by these organizations include; sustaining and increasing parental involvement due to unpredictable work schedules and conflicts, garnering the interests and participation of students, navigating turnovers of community organizers, and dismantling hierarchical relationships with schools as a means to increase family and community voices in schools.
Effect of Organizing and Impact on Those Involved
Through organizing, many grassroots have played a significant role in establishing stronger communities. They are creating for themselves and the residents of their respective areas, a seat at the table. Institutionally speaking, they are being noticed. Take for example Our Future Our Schools (OFOS). With receivership coming to an end, OFOS helped rally students and parents to go before the state-elected board and present their wishes and desires for the new superintendent of their schools. Right off the bat, they are establishing a precedence for the type of engagement local school board authority can expect to interact and communicate with. Additionally, the outreach and services provided by these organizations are reaching and providing opportunities to students and parents who would not receive help otherwise (due to marginalized identities and economic resources).
Their impact is undeniable. Some of the impact they have had include; receiving nationwide recognition by NBC’s Education Nation for a Parent Mentor program as one of “10 best solutions to improve schools,” easing the transition for immigrant and English Language Learners, providing kids access to opportunities that stimulate their development as learners and leaders, and providing spaces for people to “get connected to the community and to celebrate it!” (John Budzyna, referring to Lawrence Community Works).