Looking back at her own education, Jessica Torres didn’t remember learning how to read until the first or second grade.
“And now I have a kindergartener who is reading and he’s so excited about reading,” she said. “I can’t even spell in front of him anymore.”
Keeping up with son Shane’s education and learning how to contribute from home is what drew Torres to Parent University.
The event, organized by Cumming Elementary, offered 10 classes for parents looking for ways to get involved in their child’s education.
“We’ve made a big push this year for parental involvement,” said Katy Gunter, event organizer. “It helps show that they care about their student’s education and when the students see their parents caring, they are more likely to do better and they get excited about having their parents involved.”
Cumming is one of three Title I elementary schools in Forsyth County. Chestatee and Midway are the others.
Title I schools have a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students and receive federal assistance in exchange for increased efforts, including providing strategic actions to build parent involvement.
“Being a Title I school, we have to offer different workshops for parents to come and learn more about helping our children and different ways,” Gunter said. “We thought offering a parent university would be a good way for them to come in and have a lot of classes to choose from.”
The university’s classes included math, science enrichment, reading and were offered in both English and Spanish. And with a quick-paced layout, parents had time to attend three different sessions.
The initiatives are designed to benefit lower-income students. But with programs like Parent University open to the entire Cumming Elementary community, Torres said everyone wins.
“I am so grateful … that they have given this opportunity to all of our kids,” Torres said. “I’m just so grateful for this program and all that it does for every child.”
Parent University has been such a success for the past three years, Gunter said she’s going to expand.
“Parents took a survey,” she said. “I’m looking to offering similar courses and another parent university in the spring just because it was so well received.”
In addition to the university, the school has launched a red token initiative.
Each time a parent gets involved — including chaperoning a field trip, attending conferences and volunteering time on campus — they get a red token.
Once a parent collects 10 tokens, they can turn them in for a free T-shirt. So far, more than 3,100 tokens and 15 shirts have been handed out.
“Lots of parents have realized I’m able to be involved in a variety of ways and it’s fun and I like it and my kids like it,” Gunter said. “It’s been a great year.”