On Thursday evening, community leaders and organizers, parents and students gathered in the gym at Dilworth Middle School for the Parent University Fall Registration Fair where parents were able to get more information about the program’s free classes.
Now in its second year, Parent University offers more than 200 free classes to parents to help them become more in tune with their children’s school work, test scores, assessments and general classes to boost their involvement in the community.
“We get parents into the classroom with a variety of classes like healthy nutrition choices, computer classes, English classes, how to help your children with homework and data assessment for children,” coordinator Maria Fernandez said.
The program has added 40 new classes this year after following up on parents' assessment of the different courses that were available last year. Fernandez said the new classes will bring a better focus to the academic side of the program and help parents help their students succeed.
“Our main goal is to raise student achievement and close the achievement gaps that we have within our minority groups. We believe that by offering the tools to the parents, that will happen and we will help create a home atmosphere that is learning all the time,” she said.
The Washoe County School District began the program for the purpose of closing achievement gaps, finding more ways to reach families with students who are minorities, have special needs or are new to the school district. Fernandez said the program will only be as successful as the amount of families it can attract through outreach.
“How are we going to fix the achievement gaps if we are not bringing in all the families? We have some families that are being underrepresented in the school district and also we have some families that are not being served,” Fernandez said. “Sometimes, those families’ voices are not heard and they feel they cannot be heard. So it is really important for them to know that they do have a voice and a right to see assessment data as well as question if they think something is not going well with their child’s education. It’s very important for families to feel that they are a part of this system so they do not feel disengaged.”
Fernandez said many of the improvements over last year ae to make the program more accessible and visible to parents. The program offers free child care during classes. It also has multiple opportunities to sign up in the Fall and Spring sessions and valuable links to community resources and organizations.
Wells Fargo is one community organization that is backing the program and will be teaching its 'How to Manage Money' class to help parents learn about budget and credit issues and how to talk to kids about money.
Nancy Hamilton, community development officer at Wells Fargo, will be a co-teacher of the class with a Financial Guidance Center that will “bring a lot of expertise,” according to Hamilton.
“Last year there were questions from parents who were working on limited budgets about how to save money in a tight budget and credit was an issue,” Hamilton said. “The value of credit and what it means in today’s world is something we spent a lot of time on last year. We want to help them establish good spending habits.”
Hamilton said the class will last about two hours and will be one where parents will attend on consecutive weeks, a new addition to the class. She said the parents will receive sample budgets to manage and the class will not only help them while their children are in school, but in the future as well.
“The first day we will talk about setting financial goals and what they want to do with their money,how long range the goals may be and how they fit back into their overall budget,” she said. “We want to make a stronger community and stronger families so that they can succeed. That's what its all about.”
Parent University is open to all parents with students in the Washoe County School District and classes are held at several schools throughout Reno, Sparks, Sun Valley and Spanish Springs. Parents may register in person at the school district or their child’s school, online, over the phone or by fax.
For more information, visit www.wcsdparentu.com or call 325-2000.