FLINT, Michigan—The Parent Ambassador program, by Educare Flint, allows 10 to 12 parents to take an active part in their child’s education from the local affairs of their school to education policy in the state capital.
“It's an initiative that really focuses on engaging parents as leaders and as partners in the operations of the school, but then also the aspiration of the school,” said Ja’Nel Jamerson, executive director at Educare Flint.
Educare Flint is a part of the national Educare Learning Network, a network of 25 schools nationwide that servers children as young as six weeks old up to four years old. The Flint campus opened in December 2017 and since then Educare Flint has offered high quality tuition-free early childhood care and programs.
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“When I found out [the Parent Ambassador Program] was going to help me as a parent in making a change and a difference in the school for the children, that's what really motivated me. I can be involved in helping other children as well as my own,” said Palena Chambers, a parent ambassador at Educare Flint.
Parent Ambassadors are engaged in policy and advocacy at the state and local levels. They often go to Lansing to advocate for continued support in early childhood education and often volunteer up to 20 hours a week. The program has three main subcommittees: the policy subcommittee, community impact subcommittee, and the connections subcommittee.
Chambers has only been a Parent Ambassador for one month but makes sure that she attends every single meeting, often voicing her opinions on the connections subcommittee about ways that language can affect kids transitioning between pre-K and kindergarten. She feels that a seamless transition should be a priority and that’s why she also goes into classrooms to observe as much as she can.
“We're preparing them for the next level. We're also preparing them for life,” said Chambers. “And I feel like [there’s] a lot of things that we could teach them about being prepared for life because they’re not as sensitive.”
Through the Parent Ambassador program and since enrolling her three-year-old daughter at Educare Flint, Chambers says its definitely changed their relationship.
“I really appreciate Educare for giving me the opportunity to be closer to my daughter and to open my eyes. It has brought us closer, she’s more disciplined,” said Chambers.
Chambers attributes the relationship she has with her daughter to the administration and staff at Educare.
“I feel that they do the best that they can. They are very involved. The teachers are very kind. I know from being in the classroom how nice they are, how polite they are and how they [don’t overstep] their boundaries,” said Chambers. “The whole atmosphere here at Educare is really positive and motivating.”
In addition to being a Parent Ambassador, Chambers is also one of the first graduates of the Never Stop Learning (NSL) program. The NSL is a program that has parents taking classes focused on parenting skills as well as participating in activities with their children. Exercises can range anywhere from financial literacy to how to deal with depression as a parent.
“Educare isn't just childcare,” said Jamerson. “We feel the accountability to the school, we feel the accountability to the family, we feel the accountability to the community. And so with that, we have to absolutely engage the families.”
For more information, visit the Educare Flint website.
This piece was written as part of an underwriting series with Genesee Intermediate School District to promote an understanding of county-wide educational programming.