YES Prep’s first strategic priority is to deeply engage the parents and communities we serve. As part of this priority, YES Prep is developing and implementing a three-year community engagement plan. The plan works to:
- identify how YES Prep campuses engage with the community and to replicate those efforts throughout the system;
- formalize the process for listening to parents’ ideas for their schools through town halls and the Parent Council;
- provide avenues for parent advocacy;
- and offer education and support to families through parent summits or a parent university.
In the first year of the plan, the district will identify what is done well at different campuses and build the Parent Council. “Our Student Support Counselors already have great relationships with wraparound services organizations, and several campuses have excellent parent summits,” said Terrill North, Director of Community Engagement and Advocacy. “We want to take these best practices and apply them system wide.”
This year, YES Prep leaders will hold town halls at different campuses to hear parent concerns, get to know parents, and provide information on issues that are of importance to families– such as DACA. Parents can also join the Parent Council, an advisory organization that meets monthly and will have at least two parent representatives from each campus. “Right now, it’s about engaging our parents through these in-person meetings and listening to what our parents want us to do,” North said.
In the second year, the plan will focus more on advocacy– empowering parents to advocate for themselves, children, and schools. At the beginning of the year, YES Prep will host trainings on advocacy, so parents feel comfortable with speaking out and can see how they will impact legislation. In the spring, YES Prep will provide opportunities for parents to meet with state representatives while they’re still here in Houston.
In the third year of the plan, YES Prep aims to provide more parent education opportunities across all of the campuses. For example, parents would be able to take classes on financial literacy, health care advocacy, English as a second language, and more.
North believes that increasing community engagement could help improve student achievement. “Statistically, we know that more involved parents equal better outcomes for students,” North said. But he also emphasized the impact families can have on the schools themselves: “We need to make sure that our system is designed to meet the needs of our families. To do that, we need to talk to parents more and find out what those needs are. What do they want our schools to look like? What do they want their students to learn? What do they want to learn? Once we have answers to those questions, we can do much more.”