The Parents United Leadership Institute for the 2021-22 School Year Has Officially Begun

October 07, 2021

On September 21, the first Parents United Leadership Institute of the school year brought together more than 40 parents and school leaders from 20 different Chicago schools in a virtual session. This is the first of four Parents United Leadership Institute sessions that will take place throughout the school year.

Parents United for Healthy Schools is a leading force in creating healthy school environments through organized parent leadership in Chicago. This parent-led movement for healthy schools is grounded in a focus on social justice and a belief in the power of speaking up together. Healthy Schools Campaign provides ongoing support to parents and caregivers of Parents United.

A cornerstone of this parent-led movement is the Parents United Leadership Institute, a series of training sessions informed by parents’ experiences and the lessons they have gained in leading efforts to make health and wellness a central part of their child’s school experience. These workshops are crafted by parents for parents and take a grassroots approach to teaching parents of CPS students how to champion health and wellness in their schools. The Leadership Institute model consists of “hands-on” training sessions, community organizing instruction and role playing exercises. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parents United Leadership Institute sessions for the 21-22 school year will all be held virtually.

“We weren’t sure what to expect this year, because we’ve all been so consumed by the pandemic and public health safety in our schools,” says Rosa Ramirez, Director of Chicago Programs and Policy for Healthy Schools Campaign. “But our parent leaders are even more engaged and more motivated because this past year has put into perspective how important a healthy school is, and how their voices really can make a difference.”

The goal of the Parents United Leadership Institute is for participants to affirm the important role they play in their child’s life and understand the power they have to transform school environments. By centering on participants’ life experiences, parents and caregivers are able to recognize that everyone in the training is both a teacher and a learner.

During the September 21st workshop, parents explored many themes including health equity, structural racism and understanding power. But first, we invited all parents to share a story about themselves. One of the questions we posed to the group is: When have you been inspired by the courage of someone around you?  A fundamental pillar to community organizing is understanding what moves us, makes us angry and what is important enough for us to take action.

Parents also are equipped with tools and strategies on how to organize a wellness team and work with their schools on the issues they care about, from COVID-19 safety to fundraising. The Parents United Leadership Institute sessions are run by experienced parents who have gone through the Leadership Institute in the past and achieved success in their schools. Veteran parents invite new parents to join so that they too can be equipped with the knowledge and skills to join the city-wide movement of giving all students the chance to be healthy and ready to learn.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved with the Parents United for Healthy Schools Campaign, please contact  Rosa Ramirez, Director of Chicago Programs and Policy for Healthy Schools Campaign.