Since 2005, the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) has led an initiative to increase parent involvement and leadership at local public elementary schools through the Parent Mentor Program.
Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) and SWOP partnered together to create the Parent Engagement Institute and bring the Parent Mentor Program to schools across Illinois. In 2020, LSNA and SWOP received the Woods Fund Power of Community Organizing Award at the 26th Annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards for the Parent Engagement Institute. Learn more about the Parent Engagement Institute here.
Each year, parent mentors commit to participating in their child’s school by volunteering 100 hours a semester, two hours a day, four days a week. The parent mentors are assigned to a classroom to work one-on-one and in small group settings with students. Parent mentors are active in instruction, skill development and reviewing key concepts with the children. Teachers and principals have expressed their strong support for the program because it has allowed for the additional teaching support in their classrooms to improve student success. The experience inside the classroom does not only impact the students, but is a transformative experience for parents. A majority of the parents participating in the Parents as Mentor program are stay-at-home mothers, many immigrant women, who move from isolation to involvement in the larger community.
Along with working hands-on with students, parent mentors also attend weekly leadership development training sessions led by SWOP organizers. These trainings focus on developing public life skills, personal reflection and informational workshops. By the end of the year, the parents themselves gain familiarity within the school environment, gain personal confidence, become more engaged in their community and learn skills to help them advance in their careers.
Currently, the SWOP Parent Mentors include 130 parents and exists in 13 CPS Schools in the Chicago Southwest community, including: Azuela Elmentary, Barnard Elementary, Eberhart Elementary, Fairfield Academy, Lee Elementary, Marquette Elementary, McKay Elementary, Morrill Elementary, Nightingale Elementary, Pasteur Elementary, Talman Elementary, Tonti Elementary and Gage Park High School.
For more information on the Parent Mentors program, contact Maggie Perales at 773-471-8208 x118.