Enthusiastic, Committed and Making Change: The 2013 Parent Leadership Institute

August 07, 2013

Since the founding of Parents United for Healthy Schools, dedicated parents have made great strides within their schools and communities. Their work has led to the reinstatement of recess, and they’ve been essential partners as their schools worked to meet the standards of First Lady Michelle Obama’s HealthierUS Challenge.

Since the founding of Parents United for Healthy Schools, dedicated parents have made great strides within their schools and communities. Their work has led to the reinstatement of recess, and they’ve been essential partners as their schools worked to meet the standards of First Lady Michelle Obama’s HealthierUS Challenge.

Parents continue to foster leadership within themselves and each other. Last month, Parents United for Healthy Schools brought together 50 parent leaders from around the city of Chicago to discuss strategies for engaging their schools, communities and other stakeholders on matters of school health for the 7th Annual Parent Leadership Institute. Here, parents gained the knowledge base and tools to continue to serve as leaders on wellness in their schools and mentor other parents to do the same.

Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the day’s first speaker and a long-time supporter of Parents United, praised parents for laying the groundwork for important wellness-related progress in schools and communities alike.

“I am here to recognize the important contributions you are making in our communities, toward creating new attitudes and raising awareness, and most importantly, modeling the way for important transformation for community wellness. … Schools are an important nucleus and a tremendous catalyst for improving the wellness of our communities, which is why schools are the best place to begin, but it extends into the entire community.”

He strongly encouraged parents to engage with state and local elected officials, and even visit Springfield with a coalition to extend their advocacy beyond the school and local level to statewide efforts.

Parent leaders also learned how to continue supporting their schools with CPS’s new  LearnWELL initiative, which was introduced by Jamie Tully of the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness.

As always, parents learned a great deal from each other. One of the central activities of the day was a panel featuring parent leaders who had made an impact at their school. Jose Hernandez, a parent leader at Calmeca Academy, explained that although the school does not have an outdoor yard, the school community came together and students have daily recess indoors, creatively using the space.

“For schools that don’t have space for recess, we can cry and we can be frustrated, or, we could figure out solutions,” Jose Hernandez said. “When I come across parents who are complaining, I say, ‘I want to know more.’ I want to be able to do something about it.”

Parent Liliana Hernandez had a simple but resonant message for parents. “I encourage my fellow parents to have enthusiasm for the cause,” she said. “If you are enthusiastic and committed, you’ll be able to make a change for healthy schools.”

Thank you to Commissioner Garcia, Jamie Tully from the Chicago Public Schools office of Student Health and Wellness, Hilda Cazares and all the parents who helped make the Institute a success. Congratulations to the Parent Leadership Institute Class of 2013!