Hartford Parent University Presents Its Largest Graduating Class
On May 28, 2019, 85 parents and Hartford Public Schools students’ family members earned their Hartford Parent University certificates. Hartford Parent University (HPU) next week will honored 85 parent-leaders; the largest graduating class in its eight-year history, in a ceremony celebrating the increased involvement of parents in the governance decisions that affect their children, HPU Executive Director, Milly Arciniegas announced today.
Under a theme of “Empowering Parents to Support Their Children’s Learning,” the graduation ceremony was held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 28, 2019, at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culturet. Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez was the guest speaker, addressing an enthusiastic audience of family and friends.
“Since its founding in 2011, Hartford Parent University has helped empower more than 1,200 parents to become effective advocates and able navigators of the system on behalf of their children,” HPU Executive Director Milly Arciniegas said in announcing the event.
“These leaders already have stepped up to the plate to serve on a variety of committees such as PTOs, School Governing Councils, and neighborhood groups,” Arciniegas added, “Their advocacy for high-quality schools and teamwork with educators is just what is needed, as is their unprecedented level of collaboration with both the District and State Boards of Education.”
In addition to Dr. Torres- Rodriguez and Executive Director Arciniegas, the graduation program included descriptions of HPU’s parent learning sessions as well as special recognitions for outstanding parent leadership.
Standing on the shoulders of her Mom, Lucy Smith, and her Grandmother, Blanca Lorenzo, UConn Junior Amber Smith has her sights set on getting a masters degree and then coming back to Hartford to lead another generation of advocacy. As she spoke May 28th to the HPU graduates and their families, she emphasized “the ways we are the same.”
“I’m just like the children you have, that you have learned to empower through HPU,” Ms. Smith told the graduates. At UConn, where at times she felt she wasn’t smart enough or didn’t belong, she said, she reached back to her roots and found the strength to overcome obstacles. “It is because of people like you that I stand here today,” she told the HPU assemblage. Quoting former First Lady Michelle Obama’s warning that “Failure is a feeling before it becomes an actual result,” Ms. Smith urged the graduates to replace any worry of failure with “pride in your family, yourself, and your community.”
To her call, “Let’s all rise together,” Amber Smith got waves of applause.
With a plan for HPU coaches to to train an additional 96 parent leaders across eight schools in the months ahead, there is momentum to do so.
When Hartford Parent University Board Member Sam Irizarry addressed the 2019 graduates, he had some impressive data to share. The largest graduating class ever – 85 parent leaders – was significant, he noted, but that number masks the fact that HPU has had 240 participants in its workshops this year in the growth of their empowerment.
More than ever, the HPU-trained parents are fanning out to volunteer in schools, join community task forces, and find individual avenues to translate their workshop training into advocacy, whether for policies, resources, stepped-up public safety, or better teamwork. To that end, Mr. Irizarry pointed out, parents also have deepened relationships with teachers and guidance counselors and also have registered 120 new voters and collected approximately 1,000 voter pledges.
“Since its founding in 2011, Hartford Parent University has helped empower more than 1,200 parents to become effective advocates and able navigators of the system on behalf of their children,” HPU Executive Director Milly Arciniegas said. “These leaders already have stepped up to the plate to serve on a variety of committees such as PTOs, School Governing Councils (SGCs), and neighborhood groups,” she said, adding “Their advocacy for high-quality schools and teamwork with educators is just what is needed, as is their unprecedented level of collaboration with both the District and State Boards of Education.”
Moreover, ultimately it is parents who can play the key role of increasing parent involvement through their advocacy for all children, as well as hold the District’s feet to the fire with “direct, candid, unvarnished feedback,” Mayor Luke Bronin said in congratulating the graduates.
When Hartford Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres Rodriguez honored 2019 Inspiring Parent Leader Lynette Grant at HPU’s May 28th graduation ceremony, she took special note of how effective Ms. Grant has been as a non-stop parent advocate.
The Superintendent knows whereof she speaks: Reflecting back on her own working Mom’s involvement when they lived on Park Street and then Nelson Street in the North End, she recalled that her mother would not always be able to visit her school. But when she did, she made it plain that she cared for her child, emphasizing “Just because you don’t see me, doesn’t mean I don’t care,” Dr. Torres-Rodriguez recalled.
2019 Inspiring Parent Leader Lynette Grant demonstrates such commitment: As a mother of four, with her eldest graduating from Bulkeley High School and participating in two youth summits this past year, Ms. Grant maintained her school advocacy and support activities throughout her third trimester of pregnancy, undeterred, Dr. Torres-Rodriguez said in conferring the award. “This graduate is inspiring,” she said.
The Superintendent’s empathy and understanding of the pressures on single parents touched many HPU parent leaders, HPU Executive Director Milly Arciniegas said.
(Left to Right) Lynette Grant (Inspiring Parent Leader Awardee), Carmen Sierra (HPU Board Member), Superintendent, Tiffany Glainville (HPS Board Member)
Mellissa Williams – (HPU Parent Leader Graduate)
Nyah Rivera (Student Leader Graduate), Milly Arciniegas (Executive Director – HPU)
Superintendent addressing the Graduates
For more information about Hartford Parent University, visit https://www.hartfordparentuniversity.org/
Milly Arciniegas, Executive Director