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Parents as Partners

Parent/ Family programs are customized to meet parents' articulated needs, encourage lifelong learning, and enhance students' academic aspirations.

Parent Programs


Professional consultants and community organizers assist schools to engage parents and community members in active support of education for their children through conferences, forums, workshops (Conflict Resolution, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, How to Talk so Your Child Will Listen), book clubs, classes, home visits, financial planning activities, and college readiness, as well as parent/ student leadership conferences and parent/ student college visits. Programs are customized to meet parents' articulated needs, encourage lifelong learning, and enhance students' academic aspirations.

Parent Engagement Philosophy


The Center for College Access and Success/ Northeastern Illinois University believes that effective family partnerships are essential to creating and sustaining high quality schools. Our approach to building family partnerships is based on collaborative work with schools and communities, is informed by a body of research on the relationships between parental involvement and student success. The belief that adult learners are self-directed, goal-oriented, and capable (Moll, et al., 2001) is the cornerstone of CCAS/NEIU’s approach to valuing parents’ experiences and knowledge.

Our programming builds upon parents’ knowledge to address their self-identified goals for the future. Staff meet the parents as learners, acknowledging that adults possess a myriad of experiences or funds of knowledge to contribute and to build upon. Defined by Moll (2001) and other researchers, “funds of knowledge” refers to the “historically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills essential for household or individual functioning and well-being”.

Our parent model is asset-based, adhering to Freire’s belief that adult learners/parents are not receptacles to be filled with information; rather they have a deep reservoir of experiences that can be tapped in to in order to optimize learning. (Freire, 1970) In this way, we build and sustain social capital.

Parents want what is best for their children and their communities and they respond positively to this collaborative learning process. Research in parent engagement establishes that no matter their income level, social status, language, culture, or race; when parents are actively involved in their children’s learning the outcomes are dramatic. Student attitudes improve, attendance goes up, and they have higher test scores, graduation rates, and enrollment rates in post-secondary education. (Henderson & Berla, 1994; Henderson

& Mapp, 2002)

Parent Advocate Model


One of the key strategies CCAS/NEIU uses to increase parental engagement and involvement is our parent training model. We hire Parent Advocates to take leadership roles in: (a) identifying needs/interests of parents in participating schools, (b) recruiting parents, (c) organizing and facilitating workshops, and (d) leading presentations at local and national conferences on effective roles for families in education.

By supporting and training Parent Advocates, the program increases the presence of parents in the schools. Parent advocates are insiders who are leaders in their local communities, and know first-hand the struggles of families in low-income neighborhoods with low school completion rates. This familiarity is comforting and builds trust so they can educate other parents about issues in the education pipeline -- from early childhood learning to college preparation.

This grassroots connection is at the heart of our successful parent program because it provides parent advocates with an avenue for personal and professional growth. The result is a highly effective team of deeply committed individuals from school communities who work cooperatively toward achieving goals with measurable results.

As the direct result of the camaraderie among parents and staff, parents’ perspectives are transformed. (Mezirow, 1995) Mothers who were once too shy to leave their homes or congregate with other parents in front of the school, are now participating in book clubs, leading college tours, and facilitating workshops. Others are enrolling in expanding their own educations by getting their ESL, GED, or enrolling in college courses. They perceive themselves and their communities in new and more powerful way. Parents’ leadership capacity will remain long after CCAS/ NEIU funded programs are gone. By building and sustaining parent networks, we ignite a legacy of a strong parent presence and an enhanced support system for students in Chicago’s diverse communities.


Parent to Parent "Telenovelas"

In order to help "Make College Real" for families, the GEAR UP program at CCAS produced two videos in the "telenovela" (Mexican soap opera) style dramatizing the college application and enrollment process and how GEAR UP can support families and students.

The first video produced features a Latinx family. A mother of a high school senior speaks with her sister, who has a son in college, to get advice about college-going in the United States. The story reviews some basic information, such as the importance of grades, but focuses on the difference between 4-year and 2-year colleges.

The second video features an African American mother and her high school senior daughter speaking with one of the mother's friends. They discuss the cost of university tuition and the importance of scholarships. They also discuss postsecondary plans that include attending community college and then transferring to attain a Bachelors degree. The video concludes with some of the family/ parent and student activities available through GEAR UP, including

family college visits and FAFSA support.

Click to View "Telenovelas"

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