Neighborhood Opportunity Network

Supporting one another in a time of crisis

The convening power of…kids

Posted by sebastianbrown on December 16, 2010

We (IMPACT) and the Long Branch Athletic Association (LBAA) first began talking about the possibility of merging efforts over the summer when it was obvious we’d both be drastically affected by county budget shortfalls. From our very first conversation, we couldn’t keep our minds from running wildly about the amazing network building opportunities offered by connecting with folks around supporting their kids’ involvement in free recreational sports. Since then, we’ve been eagerly waiting for the moment when we could be more intentional about leveraging the convening power of sports–especially youth sports–toward creating even deeper and more expansive networks of mutual support amongst parents. Well, the moment–at least a little itty bitty moment amongst many more bound to come soon–arrived Tuesday night!

11 parents of 16 children–of a total of 48 participating in our after-school homework and recreational youth development  program held at Broad Acres–showed up for the first of our bi-weekly scheduled “parent nights.” The basic idea is to have parents convene on a regular basis in a relaxed environment to get to know each other better, have a dialogue with the teachers and their assistants about how their kids are progressing, and to find ways for parents to be more involved in the actual running of the program. Obviously, we see this–having parents provide mutual support  and accountability around being actively involved in their children’s development–as an amazing potential door for new folks to enter into our larger network where they can connect to services as well as other neighbors.

After giving a primer on LBAA’s various programs–soccer and basketball teams and the after-school program–we invited the parents to brainstorm how they can contribute to the growth and improvement of this amazing resource for our children. Teresa had the first idea to make simple snacks and distribute them to the kids once a week. Several parents voiced concern that many kids have no choice but to walk several blocks home in the dark and cold by themselves. They agreed to help create a system in which parents rotate making sure all kids have rides or an adult to walk them home–in the case that there isn’t, they agreed to accompany the stranded children.

Marlo explained that the intersection next to the bus stop where all kids pass as they leave the school parking lot is especially dangerous and that a couple parents should be there to act as parent crossing guards. After hearing from a couple parents that they’d be uncomfortable having their child be driven home by a stranger, we discussed how we could see this space as a chance facilitate parents becoming more familiar with each other. Teresa suggested we make a parents’ contact emergency list.

This was the first session and all this came out: imagine what these parents are capable of! It was amazing to see folks light up as they realized this was a space not just to listen and learn, but to offer and help build. We plan on having our next session January 11. In the meantime the two teacher assistants Zoveyda and Patty–both past Parent Educator program participants–will follow up with parents around specific requests as well as reach out to those who weren’t able to show up.

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