This was the first time the nationwide Parent Leadership Training Institute was offered in Rochester.
Four mothers of Greece Central School District students are hoping to effect change in their community.
To that end, they recently completed a 20-week course through the Parent Leadership Training Institute, or PLTI. This was the first time the nationwide program was offered in Rochester. Parents in the Brighton and Rochester school districts participated, as well.
The goal of PLTI is to educate parents on how to better advocate for their children, schools, and districts. Topics include city, state and federal laws; policy and municipal budgets; problem-solving skills; public speaking; and forming coalitions. The participants each come up with a project to help their districts. They're also expected to tale what they learn and share it with other parents in an effort to encourage their participation in their children's education.
Lisa Christoffel, a parent of current and former students at Odyssey Academy, has long been active in the PTA. But she saw the PLTI as a way to bump up her skills. Specifically, she was interested in learning about the civics side of education: who makes the policies and laws that affect education. She is concerned that because of the state's fiscal policies, Greece students will suffer because they won't have as many academic opportunities as they have had in the past.
"It's important how you speak up, and who you speak up to," she said.
Her PLTI project was centered around increasing participation in PTA. Christoffel, who is treasurer for the Genesee Valley, said she hopes to reach out to parents through social media and the Internet in order to get them involved.
Melissa King, whose son is autistic and attends Greece Athena Middle School, came up with the "Austism Friends Network" for her project. The website offers information on educational opportunities, community events, and support for parents and caregivers of children with autism. Long involved in the PTA, King said she hopes to see more representation of special education in the organization.
"With autism becoming more prevalent, I think they need a voice, too," she said.
LaShawn Myers-Scott, a Greece Arcadia Middle School parents, joined PLTI because she was new to Greece. Her project, "Keeping it Together," aims to maintain and encourage participation in the Skip Generations program. The program, in collaboration with the University of Rochester, provides services to caregivers of and mentors to young people. She is hoping to work with other community agencies, like service organizations and clubs, to increase participation in Skip Generations.
Luva Alvarez, who has two students at Longridge Elementary and one at Odyssey Academy, said her goal through PLTI was to learn how to encourage other parents to be more involved in their students' education. She came up with an incentive rewards program for parents to be recognized and rewarded for being engaged in their students' school careers.
The moms said what they have learned through PLTI is already being put into practice through their projects. They've also started an alumni group with the other area participants in order to keep the momentum going.
"You will see us again," Myers-Scott said.
The PLTI is accepting applications for its next batch of participants. To learn more or to apply, visit www.greaterrochesterplti.org.