U of R Internship Program Aims to Boost Parental Involvement in City Schools

Tue, Jun 17, 2014

A new internship program sponsored by the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education will be giving city parents an opportunity to expand their understanding of the best ways to support their children in school, university officials stated.

According to a press release, the Horizons at Warner summer enrichment program will be piloted this summer to help reduce barriers to parent participation in schooling, particularly among low-income minority families.

The new internship program, called Parents as Learning Support (PALS), will kick off with a full-day training session at the start of the fifth Annual Horizons at Warner summer enrichment program, running July 1 to August 8 in LeChase Hall on the University of Rochester’s River Campus. In addition, PALS, funded by a grant from the Rochester Area Community Foundation Education Equity (Youth) Program, will provide $800 stipends to each parent intern.

Nine PALS interns, who are parents of current students enrolled in Horizons at Warner, will attend the training session, aimed at teaching adults effective strategies to support student learning at school and at home.

Horizons at Warner Executive Director Lynn Gatto will lead the seminar, which will explore positive approaches for behavior management, specialized learning and questioning skills for instruction, supportive techniques for organization and time management, and effective communication strategies. Parents will then spend two full days a week with an assigned teacher team for the duration of the six-week Horizons summer program.

According to the press release, research has shown that parental engagement in children’s education boosts academic performance of students, as well as contributes to improving their attitudes and behaviors, school attendance, and graduation rates.

In addition, children whose parents are more involved in school are also more likely to attend college.

However, parents from low-income minority families tend to feel isolated, marginalized, and unwelcomed by their children’s schools due to differences in language, economic conditions, education, and race, and thus are more reluctant to engage in their children’s education.

“As a retired city schoolteacher, many of my students’ parents were unsure of how to participate in and contribute to their child’s schooling,” says Gatto, who also currently serves as an assistant professor and director of elementary education at the Warner School of Education. “This is a crucial time for children, and they are looking to their families for support, encouragement, and engagement. We’ve developed a pilot program that is tailored to meeting the needs of families so that they develop the confidence and skills to be more engaged in our city schools and increase school success for their own children.”

Under the guidance of teacher teams, this experience will allow parents to develop positive relationships with teachers and administrators, acquire skills in asking comprehensive questions to derive meaning from text, gain experience in assisting their own child with schoolwork, and learn about the expectations for the Common Core state standards. The program’s expectation is that the knowledge and skills will carry over into the regular school year so that students continue to receive support to succeed year-round in school.

Serving 135 students in kindergarten through eighth grade at John James Audubon School No. 33 and other city schools, Horizons at Warner’s six-week summer enrichment program combines academic, social, cultural, wellness, and recreational activities for urban students in kindergarten through eighth-grade, and is led by certified teachers (many of whom are Warner alumni), education majors from local colleges, and high school students who serve as teaching assistants.

The theme of this year’s program will focus on architecture. Most activities, including daily math and reading instruction and weekly field trips, will relate to the architectural theme, officials stated.

The Horizons at Warner program, an affiliate of the national non-profit called Horizons National, is part of the Greater Rochester Summer Learning Association along with The Harley School, Nazareth College, Monroe Community College, SUNY Geneseo, and EnCompass/Norman Howard School.

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