Parent Leadership Can Ensure the Success of Change for Good

July 18, 2013

It is essential that we continue to find ways to make parents a part of the conversation about school health at the community, city, state and national levels.

By Guillermo Gomez

Yesterday, Healthy Schools Campaign welcomed more than 200 stakeholders from the health, education and business communities, as well as officials from Chicago Public Schools (CPS), parents, principals and community partners to launch Change for Good, a new three-year plan to transform schools, communities and the entire city, and support the long-term health and success of all Chicago students. Change for Good focuses on supporting four specific areas: healthy school food, school fitness, healthy classrooms and green schoolyards. We are very excited about this new campaign and what the future holds. We also know that one of the keys to ensuring this plan is successful is the involvement and empowerment of parents.

It is essential that we continue to find ways to make parents a part of the conversation about school health at the community, city, state and national levels. That’s why, through Parents United for Healthy Schools, we host events such as the upcoming 7th annual Parent Leadership Institute, which happens next Tuesday and Thursday at Arturo Velazquez West Side Technical Institute.

At this intensive day-long institute, parents will develop knowledge and skills related to the CPS wellness policy, wellness teams and school-level strategy for promoting student health. Parents also come to the Institute to learn about a variety of critical topics, including health disparities affecting Chicago communities, the connection between health and learning, the new wellness policies in CPS and their implementation, and more. Parents also share strategies for organizing, creating wellness teams and holding schools accountable for enacting health-promoting changes.

The institute has evolved over the past seven years, incorporating new voices and ideas from parents and adapting to the changing landscape of school wellness in Chicago and across the nation. Recently it also added a number of new practices and strategies for mobilizing parents on wellness issues and policies. We have included physical activity breaks such as dance and aerobics to get both bodies and minds moving and energized. We have brought in a wide variety of guest speakers and community partners and encouraged parents to participate in wellness activities. We have encouraged parents to take leadership roles in local school councils and other school-based committees, as well as on the district level.

But the most important element of this Institute is giving parents the opportunity to serve as on-the-ground experts and role models, and teach and empower one another to continue to make changes in their schools and communities.

We’re looking forward to seeing many parents and community members at the 7th annual Parent Leadership Institute next week, as we continue the conversation around health and wellness in schools.