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Parent Town Hall: Expanding Quality After School Options in Prince George’s County

December 2, 2013

By Ayann Johnson Bailey

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Kids spend 30% of their time at school while parents spend 70% of their time at work.  As the parent of a

ninth grade boy, I had to decide when he was born how involved in his education I would be.  Would I allow schools to “take care of it” or would I be hands-on every step of the way?  I chose to be an involved parent when my son, Jhabari, went to pre-school.  If a child sees the importance of education to the parent, a child then sees the importance of his or her own education. Jhabari has always been interested in school and his activities because he sees that I am involved. Jhabari, his teachers, and school administrators see that I am a “serious” parent about school.  Teachers put more effort into connecting with Jhabari.  They feel more obligated to make sure he is successful because they recognize the partnership I am creating with them.

Jhabari’s development does not start and stop when the school bell rings.  Placing him in a quality after school program that would supplement what he learns in school and support his emotional and social development was of the upmost importance to me.  Early on, when Jhabari was in elementary school, it was a challenge to find quality, safe, clean, and fun after school programs. We tried daycare programs that offered after school transportation service from school to their facility. He also attended basketball focused after care that offered a homework component. We found the Robotics program provided by Prince George’s County Public Schools to be very enriching and a supplemental program to his sports programs.  My top challenge was transportation, as the public school system only offered transportation (an activity bus) on Thursdays, which is inconvenient for the parents whose kids would like to participate in after school programs especially middle and elementary school aged kids.  I realized that this was a common challenge shared by parents in Prince George’s County when I attended the Foundation’s 3rd Annual Socratic Forum: Parent Town Hall: Expanding Quality Afterschool Options in Prince George’s County.
IMG_0493I sat among 50 parents on a Saturday morning, of various ages and classes, who identified a need for affordable, reliable, after school programs with transportation options.   We expressed a strong desire for programs offering structured physical activities as well as structured educational enrichment and homework help.  The biggest identified challenges were affordability and transportation.  I learned that each parent has an interest in working with after school providers to ensure program administrators can identify and address the needs of kids and families.  All parents were willing to participate in forums like the Parent Town to be involved in the decisions that affect their children and family.  I walked away from the Parent Town understanding that every parent in that room wants all programs and systems that touch a child to see themselves as part of the village that is raising a child and as such to work in partnership with parents to do so.

I invite all parents to join me in making the commitment to be an “engaged parent” in their child’s education during and beyond the school day.  I invite school, business, philanthropic and nonprofit leaders to read the summary from the Parent Town Hall to answer the question: What can I do to expand quality afterschool options in the County?  It will take all of us to ensure that all children have the same access to opportunities as Jhabari regardless of race, socio-economic status and geography.

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