By Amanda Reilly
On June 14, 2019, over 900 Parent Mentors gathered at Carl Schurz High School for the 8th annual statewide parent mentor graduation. Miguel del Valle, former senator and the incoming president of the Chicago Board of Education, spoke at the event on the important and valuable work of the program. Both first-time parent mentors and seasoned parent volunteers alike had the opportunity to walk across the stage and shake hands with state representatives and senators. For many parents, it’s a moment that puts into perspective the work they have been doing all year and grasp what it means to be active in public life. The parent-mentor graduation and celebration enabled the parents participating in the program to see in a very physical way that their work is a part of a bigger mission.
For the 2018-2019 school year, the parent mentor program has made it possible for over 14,000 students to be assisted across the state of Illinois. This school year alone the program welcomed 9 new organizations and 19 new schools to make a total of 119 schools being served. Elideth Hernandez, Parent Mentor organizer, shared that “When you realize you are a part of something huge… it’s exciting, even to see some of the principals coming together.” For Maggie Perales, director of the Parent Mentor Program, the most special part of the graduation was to see the smiles on the parents’ faces. Sherri Miles, Parent Mentor organizer, also commented that “you see 8 Parent Mentors in your school every day but when you go to the graduation and see 900 that’s another thing, you’re not just part of a small team, you’re part of a whole group.” That’s what it’s all about: SWOP, the Parent Mentor Program, our parent volunteers… it’s about making a difference on a broader scale and giving community members the chance to become leaders in their own communities.