People are Talking about PLTI!
Jennifer Murphy joined the PLTI class because she saw how it had affected her husband, Jeff. He was able to expand his Rugby program for the kids at T.C. Williams High School, while maintaining a focus on academics; connect with recreation department staff; and receive a community service award for his work with City Youth. When Jennifer began, she knew that she would present a financial literacy class as her community project. What she didn’t know was that the project would take on a life of its own and she would be a catalyst to the signing of a collaboration agreement among Arne Duncan, Secretary, U.S. Department of Education; Sheila C. Bair, Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC); and Debbie Matz, Chairman, National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), bringing funding for Alexandria’s children.
The Money Smart after school course at Minnie Howard was so successful that two sessions were added to the class at the request of the students who wanted to learn more. Really? Yes, really. The course has been expanded this year to include Hammond Middle School, Minnie Howard Campus and T.C. Williams High School. The community project is not just a requirement of the PLTI class; it is the beginning of the real work of making change for our children. Sometimes it takes just one person with a commitment to make a dream become a reality. Jennifer Murphy is that person.
Chyrell Bucksell, graduate of the 2010 PLTI class was devastated by the drowning death of her friend’s child. Within 2 days, she had arranged for free swimming lessons for 7 children from subsidized housing with no extra cost to the City of Alexandria, by creative use of resources. Chyrell, recipient of the Women’s Commission Rising Star Award, has been an active proponent of Carpenter Shelter, and Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) programs, and is now an ARHA Board Commissioner.
PLTI alumna, Edith Enriquez, along with her husband and several PLTI graduates, started a Teen Pregnancy Prevention program for the Hispanic community, presented in Spanish. Alexandria’s dropout rate is far too high and one cause is Alexandria’s children having children. The first presentation had 35 adults and a separate group of 20 teens. Both men and women attended an amazingly well-planned, smoothly presented curriculum, focusing on parenting skills, active listening, expectations, and appropriate and necessary conversation between parent and child. The program has also been presented at Alexandria City Public Schools Family Academy.
Although PLTI cannot eliminate the achievement gap single-handedly, we are certainly are doing our best to narrow that gap.
Mazahir Salih is from Sudan. She’s a single mom caring for her five young children in the west side of Alexandria.
Last year, she was taking a bus to drop her kids off at a head start program on the other side of town. It wasn’t easy. Often enough, the old bus wouldn’t show up on time or at all. She saw other parents struggle alongside her. By the time they realized the bus wasn’t coming, it would be too late to jump on public transportation, making everyone run late for work.
Mazahir went on a mission to get a new bus for the head start program. With the help of PLTI, she knew how to navigate the system better, so she called the mayor’s office and made an appointment to see him. After he met with her, he called the school system’s superintendent, and invited her to a joint meeting between the city and public school system. At the meeting, she spoke about the need for a new bus for the parents of head start children living in the west side of Alexandria.
She's still working with the community to resolve this issue, but Mayor Euille was so impressed by her actions, he continues to tell the story.
How PLTI helps the community
Angela Drake's daughter was coming home from school sick, too often. So Angela approached the school nurse and asked her if she knew why. The response, that “kids are coming to school sick with fevers,” both surprised and concerned Angela. In follow-up discussions with teachers and other parents she found that often parents do not recognize when their child is really sick (rather than simply the “not feeling well” excuse to stay home). Further she discovered that many families did not have a thermometer to check children's temperatures. So Angela, a student of the Parent Leadership Training Institute of Alexandria (PLTI), discovered first hand the meaning of civic engagement as the “germ” of her PLTI community service project began to develop.
Angela thought that if parents were alerted to the advantages of early detection of illnesses as well of the dangers of contagion, many would keep their children home thereby minimizing contagion with a consequent decrease in the number of children who became ill and missed school. She set herself a practical if ambitious goal: to see that every family with a child in her elementary school in Alexandria had a thermometer and the information on when to use it and the advantages of doing so. From this blossomed a project that took on a life of its own.
Over the next few months Angela researched the issue. She approached the school administration and local businesses for advice and assistance. She described her project to Mayor Euille who encouraged her and helped her identify a contact with Walgreens. Finally, she discussed her idea with her PLTI board member and mentor, Adrienne Fikes, who assisted in introducing her to marketing professionals who helped with ideas on how to get her message out.
As her PLTI graduation approaches, Angela has a commitment from Walgreens to supply her with 7000 thermometers, one for every elementary school family in ACPS. She is designing, and hoping to receive donations for magnets with information about common illnesses and symptoms to look for that can be kept at parents' fingertips. She is discussing with the school system administrators the most efficient and effective way of distributing these tools to parents, hoping to include them in the back-to-school packets distributed to elementary parents.
Angela and her PLTI classmates will graduate from the program were graduated on May 11th at City Hall. Another moving experience for PLTI.
From a September 6, 2007 Washington Post article about forming a Parent Leadership Training Institute in Alexandria:
From an April 10, 2007 Alexandria Times article on the School Board Retreat:
From a participant in the 2008 class of PLTI:
2006 PLTI graduates say:
"I am honored to have attended the first PLTI class of Alexandria and
proud to become a graduate of PLTI."
"A valuable class that I am proud to be a part of... ha(s) been invaluable
to enhancing my leadership ability."
"Keep... developing new leaders who can support their children and communities."
"I now have a more informed understanding of how a community is formed,
governed, issues addressed, debated and handled. I strongly recommend
this program to all citizens who have a desire to commit to change in the community."
"I loved the interpreter. She was very quiet when translating and participated as well."
"I am (a) different person, more confident about myself."
"PLTI has been one of the best, most wonderful experiences in my 36 years. I actually
came to PLTI to find answers and seek for help. Each PLTI class was very helpful.
I've learned to be more outgoing, more understanding, listening more to my needs and my
family's needs. I am a better wife, better mother and I know that I am a better friend."
"It should be mandatory training for all parents! By week twenty, the tears of accomplishment
were coupled with tears of sadness that the class had come to a close so quickly! I've
developed a lifelong relationship with people committed to being involved."