Parent and Community Empowerment Conference - Notes

These are notes taken from the conference at Giffen on Saturday March 8th, 2008:

Parent and Community Empowerment Conference
At Giffen Elementary School

Welcome Address, Beverly L. Ivey, Principal
- Why are we here? We, the South End, aren't succeeding as highly as we should.
- The parents, teachers, and community have to work to ensure the children have a bright future.
- The parents' responsibility is to be in the PTA, check child's homework and schoolwork, talk with their teachers, have library cards, take trips to the museum and other educational places, don't let kids be on the computer or TV too much, have a reading time every day, and make sure they're eating nutritious meals and get enough sleep.
- The teachers need to make the material being taught fun and challenging. Make the kids excited and really want to come to school each day.
- The community can support the children and schools by volunteering, reading to kids, mentoring, helping them out, and by voting for people that support schools so they have enough of a budget to get what they need to improve them.

1st Keynote Speaker, Hon. Carolyn McLaughlin

- We have to re-energize ourselves. We can't do anything unless we all come together, the South End community needs to work together to grow.
- We're like a table. A table has a top and four legs. The South End as a whole is like the top of the table. Without its four legs, the top won't stand. It'll just roll or fall over. So it needs its legs. The students represent one leg. Parents represent another leg. The school district and teachers represents the third leg, and the community leaders and residents represent the last leg. Every part is vital for the table to function properly. Everyone needs to fulfill their responsibility.
- Many times you don't know the child can't read or needs glasses. They were never asked to read out loud or to answer problems on the board. We need to read to our children and communicate with them. Reading is very important and helps them many things. If you want to travel but can't, you can read a book. A book can take you anywhere.

1st Seminar - Building a Loving and Strong Home, Ms. Jacquelina Johnson, 2nd grade teacher
- She started teaching because she didn't want to work a 9-5 job. She wanted to get back earlier to spend more time with her family and children. She started out as a tutor and substitute before becoming a teacher.
- She was a single mother, but had strong family ties, so she didn't do it by herself. Her family helped her out a lot.
- Teach a child in the way he/she should go and they won't go astray.
- You need to be a role model for your children.
- Need to have consistency.
- Meet your child's physical and emotional needs.
- If you don't discipline them, they're disciplined through the course.
- The children should know discipline so when they walk into the classroom, the teacher shouldn't have to deal with that. They should just be free to teach.
- The goal is to have a loving and strong home. In order to have a loving and strong home, we need to have: patience, trust, understanding, give the child choices, a sense of humor, endurance, a challenge, be flexible, be realistic, have some R&R time, consistency (routines, good habits), honesty, constant learning, respect, quality time, discipline, communication, sacrifice, responsibility, be nurturing, be open to change, and lots of LOVE! Factors that affect these things are your job, extracurricular activities, support you get, your conscience, teachers, role models, feelings, parental demands, time, favoritism, being able to change and not do bad things your parents did to you, balance, firmness, spirituality and faith, and books you read. It's a lot, but the rewards are great, such as seeing your child graduate. Especially from college.
- You can get books at the library for free or go to flea markets and garage sales to get them cheaply. Read a lot!

2nd Seminar - Preserving and Protecting Emotionally Healthy Families, Noelene Smith, Social Worker
- This is about trauma, the causes, how to identify it, and what we can do about it.
- The definition of trauma: a tragic experience that causes shock, disrupts psychological health, can occur once or be continuous, and often having long-lasting effects.
-Causes of trauma include: physical or sexual abuse, divorce, mental illness, sudden homelessness, poverty, displacement (child taken away), death of a loved one, injury (to themselves or others), violence, environmental issues (fire, earthquake), and war.
- The anger because of the traumas are many times the cause of bad behaviors.
- If no discipline is working and the children are still misbehaving, we need to look deeper and many times it's because of traumatic experiences.
- A child misbehaving is like a cry for help.
- Symptoms and behaviors of trauma victims include: anger, isolation, rebellion, numbness, change in social and emotional behavior, withdrawal and shutting down, sexual promiscuity, alcoholism and drug problems, bed wetting, depression, loss of concentration, looking for love in the wrong places, hyperactivity, emotional detachment, despair (don't care), helplessness, and low self esteem.
- When they go through a trauma or are abused, women tend to think it's their fault and hurt themselves and men tend to hurt others.
- Albany County got a $6.9 million grant for young people. But they're mostly only treating white kids. There's a lot of discrimination still, and many inner city black kids aren't treated and aren't getting what they need.
- Many children are misdiagnosed with adult problems because we're tired and give up. We need to work harder to look deeper because many times the treatment is wrong or it's not necessary.
- Many children don't want to work with social workers or people trying to help them because they assume there's a problem when they come and are upset. They think they're going to take them away from their parents or they're the reasons their parents can't get jobs or other things.
- What we can do to treat them: little medications, only when necessary. Medications are only temporary things, but a behavior modification lasts. There's often no coordination with social workers and psychologists helping the children. Someone needs to be in charge of coordinating things. They need to be able to provide them with treatment, the staff should be trained to recognize trauma, parents and teachers need to communicate, have a personalized education plan (PEP), call a social worker for treatment for a child instead of calling the police when there's a problem. They need to get better instead of be punished.

2nd Keynote Speaker, Rev. Dr. Damone Paul Johnson
- Strong families = strong communities = strong nation and world.
- Harvard did a study to predict how many juvenile delinquents there would be in the future. The similarities between juvenile delinquents include: no parental involvement or awareness, no discipline, and the parents don't know who the child's friends are. Those kinds of kids are more likely to be juvenile delinquents.
- One way they judge how many prisons they should build is by looking at the 3rd grade reading levels.
- If we can predict who will be juvenile delinquents, shouldn't we do something to prevent it?
- 60% of babies are born to single mothers.
- 69% of African Americans are from single mothers.
- Fathers spend an average of 7 minutes a day with their children.
- A six month old baby had a fever that wouldn't break, so they took him to the hospital. They found out he had six broken bones caused by the father on three different occasions. Nowadays manhood is judged by their "hotness" and anger. The hotness and anger is from being so broken inside.
- You have to change roles when someone in the family goes down. If the father leaves, you have to step up and replace it. Be flexible and ready to change roles when needed.
- Ask not why the father left, but why the mother stayed. Why they care for their children and work so hard to keep a roof over their heads.
- In Mexico City, Mexico, there was a very bad accident where there was a bus full of people that went off the road and fell 100 feet down a cliff. Only 2 people survived -- a 9 year old and a 15 year old. The 9 year old had a broken leg and hit her head. When asked how she survived with a broken leg and head injury when the bus was spinning round and round, she said she felt like her grandmother was embracing her. She kept her safe. So even when your life is going round and round, they're broken on the inside, and their head is messed up, you can still embrace your children. That's how you'll survive.