One month before high school graduates take to the stage in their caps and gowns, some of their parents held a graduation of their own.
On Wednesday night, more than a dozen parents and their families gathered at the Cathedral City High School theater to be recognized for completing Palm Springs Unified School District’s Parent Academy.
The 11-week program met once a week, helping parents learn more about the technology their students are using and how to access district resources for things like mental health and language learning. This is only the second graduation for the program. The first Parent Academy was held last year during the fall. In total, 11 parents received a certificate of achievement last year. This year 20 parents participated.
Representatives from the district explained the program was born out of the pandemic and the upheaval kids and families went through while attending school online. “We had so many calls coming into the Family Engagement Center,” said Brittney Harrell, a Family and Community Engagement Specialist. “Some parents couldn’t even navigate the internet. They didn’t know how to get on a Zoom.”
Parents who attended the program learned much more than just the technical aspect of their children’s education. Harrell noticed parents in her class fostering connections across schools and grade levels, “They added each other on Facebook, shared phone numbers, and even celebrated a birthday,” she said. Facilitators said the parents loved the Parent Academy so much they asked for it to be extended so they could spend more time together.
The district hopes parent graduates become ambassadors for the program, helping other families learn more about district resources even if they don’t attend Parent Academy.
“It’s amazing how many different resources they have to offer that I didn’t know about,” said Nanci Jimenez, a mother of four, including two children attending Cielo Vista Charter School in Palm Springs. “They can help you find housing and food and everything. Even if I didn’t need the resources, I could tell my friends and neighbors about it.”
Jimenez hopes that by taking the weekly course, she is modeling what it looks like to be a lifelong learner to her kids.
“I want my kids to know I’m there for them and that I’m still learning right along with them,” she said. “My kids are so intelligent. They teach me more than I teach them. Learning with them feels like I’m healing things from my past.”
Stacey LeClair, a mother of four, takes lifelong learning seriously. She revealed that after watching her kids go through online learning throughout elementary school and attending Parent Academy, she decided to return to school to become a kindergarten teacher, “It made me realize my kids’ teachers have a lot of responsibility,” she said.
LeClair wants other parents to make time for their kids in whatever way they can, “Join PTA, come in on the weekends, and help out,” she said. “Children learn better and easier when their parents are around.”
More information: PSUSD’s next Parent Academy will begin again in the fall. Check out their website for more information.