By Guillermo Gomez, vice president of urban affairs
Last week, Parents United for Healthy Schools campaign manager Jovita Flores and I were invited by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to share our work with food and fitness advocates at the Food & Fitness Collaborative meeting in Detroit. The meeting brought together representatives from a variety of organizations to share best practices and techniques for parent involvement, youth leadership and program evaluation.
Jovita and I have had the opportunity to witness the power of parent involvement through our work developing HSC’s Parents United for Healthy Schools/Padres Unidos para Escuelas Saludables coalition, and this was a great opportunity to discuss what we have learned with others who are interested in supporting parent leadership around food and fitness issues.
While there, we shared tools for parent leadership development that we’ve created and refined over the years with input from parents. This includes documents and printed tools but also includes ideas for events such as our annual principals’ breakfast where parent leaders and principals gather to share ideas for school wellness. These tools make talking to school administrators about health and wellness easier and more effective. Some of the most important tools we’ve developed are those that help parents talk about school wellness policies and take steps to form a wellness team or committee at their school. It was an honor to share these resources with others who are eager to take action.
Our work with Parents United continues to extend parent involvement. Along with principals and teachers, parents are the most invested stakeholders in schools -- and they are most definitely key advocates for children’s health. What we’ve found is that parents are completely integral in creating change and developing strategies for an academic culture that promotes wellness. Since Parents United was created in 2006, we’ve worked with parent leaders to advocate for the return of recess, healthy school food, breakfast in the classroom and much more.
In my years as a parent and as an advocate, it’s been great to see an institutional shift toward healthy, active decisions. I am inspired by the incredible work of the parent leaders who speak up to make change that will shape their children’s health and learning for a lifetime. We were honored to speak at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation event and share this work with the various Food & Fitness grantees. I look forward to hearing about the work they do for parent leadership in their own communities.
Today, we’re kicking off the 2011 Parent Leadership Institute at Richard J. Daley College. The training will not only emphasize leadership development, but also encourage parents to be part of the Go for the Gold campaign, the local embodiment of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign.
To learn more about the Parent Leadership Institute and read about last year’s institute, check out the Parents United for Healthy Schools section of HSC’s blog.