Last Thursday, I had an absolutely wonderful time at the Box Tops for Education Town Hall that was held on the campus of Spelman College. And one might think that my excitement about the evening was due to meeting husband and wife team and celebrities, Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker, in person. And the groupie in me is not going to lie…I was pretty excited to meet them. But, I was also excited about the fact that hundreds of parents, educators and community organizers came together for an evening to discuss the importance of parental involvement in their child’s education.
The audience and panel engaged in a very lively conversation about how to encourage African American parents to become more involved and invested in their children’s education. The evening’s star studded panel included: Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum – President of Spelman College, Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas – from the Grammy Award-Winning Group TLC, and Tommy Hillman – Box Tops for Education brand manager. And the moderator for the evening was Jeff Johnson- MSNBC contributor and executive editor of Politic365.com.
Throughout the evening, we not only discussed the many challenges that we face as African American parents, but we also discussed possible solutions. And, here are 10 things that I learned from the panelists and audience members that every parent needs to know about supporting their kid’s educational journeys (and plus some really great pictures from the event):
#1. It truly takes a village. Parents can’t do it alone. If we are going to turn things around at our local schools, the entire community needs to contribute. Chilli encourages everyone to get involved in supporting the local schools (even if they don’t have kids.) Chilli’s entire family (including her sister that has no kids) clips Box Tops. Chilli also admitted that she will continue to clip Box Tops even after her son starts college!
#2. As parents, our responsibilities don’t end when our kids walk through the doors of the schools. The schools need our help. We can support the schools by volunteering. And we can help the teachers by simply getting involved in your kid’s homework and ensuring that they are prepared for school each day.
#3. “Education can be is such a daunting issue to parents”…. Says Jeff Johnson… “And normally when people feel like making a difference in education, they feel it’s too big for them and they feel helpless. Programs like Box Tops are great because people that don’t have a lot of money or time don’t have to do any thing different than what they are already doing and buy the products that they are already buying. And it becomes an investment in their kid’s school without changing anything that they are doing and that’s powerful. And so it becomes a great local easy tool for people to play a role in empowering their local education system.”
#4. We need to also focus on men who shop and dads who care about education. There is a need for black men in paticular to be present on these issues. “Men rise to the challenge when they challenge each other,” says Johnson. So what better way to get them involved than with the Box Tops for education program.
#5. “Any time you have a platform, it is your duty and responsibility to use that platform for positive change”...says Boris Kodjoe…”it is all of our duty to do something.” And this is why Boris and Nicole have decided to support the Box Tops for Education initiative and the town hall.
#6. When parents are involved, it encourages the kids and shows them that the parents care about their education. This is why Dr. Beverly Tatum says programs such as Box Tops are so empowering…because they promote parental involvement.
7. Parents need to lead by example. Jeff Johnson stated: “What young people need to see is us not talking about education, but us walking education. We show up for sports events at school, but not for science events.” Johnson challenged parents to show as much (if not more) excitement for academics than they did for sports.
8. We need more positive images of everyday people supporting their kid’s educational goals. Sure it’s nice to have celebrities get behind programs such as box tops. But, Dr. Tatum states that it is also important to see everyday parents being involved.
9. We need to do something “in the mean time.” Sure, we need to continue to put pressure on the local and state governments to adequately fund educational programs. But, Nicole Ari Parker says, we (parents and the community) also need to do something in the meantime by getting involved with programs like Box Tops that are providing schools with much needed funds and resources.
10. Start from where you are and build from there. You don’t have to be rich or a stay at home mom. You don’t have to have a lot of vacation days or a college education. Any parent can be involved in their child’s education. Just start from where you are. Volunteer a few times a year, work on projects for the teacher from home, be a chaperone a field trip, or just be consistent with the homework each night . It’s the smallest things that mean so much to our kids. And if every parent contributed just a little, then our schools would improve exponentially.
Box Tops for Education has given over $525 M dollars to schools since starting the program in 1996. There are some schools earning up to $20,000 from the program. Unfortunately, many schools in African American communities are not taking advantage of this program. If your local school is not participating, please visit: btfe.com/townhall. On this site, you will find the Educational Success Toolkit, a resource developed by the National Urban League and Box Tops to support parents in being active in their children’s educational journey. You will also be able to see the the Town Hall webcast that will air on February 4, 2013.
Disclosure: Lamar and I are paid spokesbloggers for the Box Tops For Education program. We will be providing information and stories throughout the school year in hopes of encouraging our community to take advantage of the millions of dollars that are being given to schools across the country each year. All opinions expressed are our very own.