BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG —It may be summer, but that didn’t stop parents from gathering on National Parent’s Day weekend to once again discuss how to support local students and their families.
Positive Impact Ministries, located at 2750 34th St. S., was abuzz with community members dedicated to making a difference at the 11th Educational Summit sponsored by the Parent Support for Education Council, Inc. (PSFEC).
Turning the hearts of children and parents toward one another was the focus of this summit, and after prayer, reading from scripture and mission objectives, the morning got going with parent testimonials and heartfelt stories of everyday people trudging through the rollercoaster of life.
Many community officials were present from Pastor Martin Rainey, president of PSFEC to Juvenile Welfare Board’s (JWB) Trenia Cox and Delquanda Turner. Each discussed the importance of parents in the lives of children and urged more parents south of Central Avenue to get involved not only with their child’s school, but in their everyday lives as well.
Motivational speaker Henry Johnson shared the emotional story of losing his first child and the turmoil in almost losing his second, his little girl now 11, who was born weighing just over a pound. Johnson feels his struggle to have a family increased his patience and determination to stick with it when times got tough. He connects with his daughter each day, as his own mom did with him, and hopes his words will guide other parents into being better at getting involved with their children.
“Kids who skip, hang with kids who skip, kids who make straight A’s hang with the kids that make straight A’s,” he said. “It all makes sense if you just pay attention to it.”
Connection is the key according to Johnson, and he cautioned parents on falling into the trap of being in the same house with children, but not really interacting. Johnson lives by the old adage that kids don’t know unless you tell them. A saying his mom lived by, and one that Johnson holds dear to his heart today. “You need to know and hear what’s possible,” he said.
Johnson acknowledged that parents have a lot going on, some with more than one job and single parents struggling to put food on the table each night. But unconditional love is free and Johnson and the members of PSFEC know that if you give what you have, kids will see what you’re doing and hear what you are talking about and try to emulate it. Parents were encouraged to make their actions and what’s coming out of their mouths something positive.
One of the topics up for discussion was the parent as the oppressor. PSFEC recognizes that the role of parents is essential in shaping children and their outlook on life, but view oppressive parents as detrimental to their message.
Trenia Cox, JWB Planning Manager, defines oppressive parents as those who berate their children on a regular basis with such practices as name-calling or projecting anger towards children.
“Oppressive parents really are serious catalysts that contribute to the pipeline to prison,” she said noting that unwanted or unloved children are crowding the jail cells. “We have a responsibility to reach out to those parents.”
Cox cited the more than 130 churches located south of Central that could take up the cause noting that parents who talk down to kids are dealing with abuse issues themselves from their own childhood.
Parents attending the summit agreed. One explaining that as role models parents must realize their job is to sit and listen to their children so that they may attempt to understand the issues their child is going through, not to provoke their children to rouse.
Candace Billingsley, a member of the PSFEC, gave a testimonial of her strife in raising eight kids on her own. A success story in the making, Billingsley took it upon herself to follow Pastor Rainey to every meeting he attended in an effort to better herself and gain guidance as to how to improve the lives of her children.
“Every meeting that I could be at, I was there,” said Billingsley who learned making the right choices isn’t always easy. “I had to learn to re-parent myself all over again.”
Master of Ceremonies Reverend Wayne Reese profoundly stated that father absenteeism from the lives of their children does not always have to be the determining factor on whether a child will succeed in life.
“We have had single parents all of our lives,” he said noting that he was raised in a single parent household. “So we’ve got to get over that misconception that being a single parent is going to inhibit our children from being positive or having a positive impact in our schools.”
Reese instead suggested that whoever is in that child’s life needs to get involved and engage in conversation and activities with their child so they are aware of what is expected of them.
Johnson had no problem pointing out the football fields around town as being laden with fathers and mothers supporting their children on the field. But he, along with other PSFEC members, feel that parent energies and support would be better served in helping their children excel in their academic endeavors where they will experience a higher rate of success over the small chance they will be picked to go professional.
“Parents say they don’t have time to do x-y-z, but they’re on that field because that’s important to them,” said Johnson who believes the culture surrounding what’s important needs to be changed. “They’re trying to get that contract out of a 10 year old kid.”
He suggested that many high school aged children have difficulties getting along with their teachers, although they have learned to deal with their coaches and wants parents of athletes to realize the classroom will get their child further than football.
Cassandra Jackson is part of PSFEC’s parent empowerment training and was on hand signing up caregivers to receive coaching in navigating the public school system jargon and provide handy tidbits to parents.
“I know that parenting does not come with instructions,” she said emphasizing the need for parents to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to communicate with school officials and teachers. “This training will help remove the lack of knowledge, the intimidating atmosphere some feel.”
A JWB table of resources was also set up for parents with information on where to get help, as well as school supplies for the upcoming school year.
Pastor Rainey closed out the 11th Educational Summit reminding parents of the power of love and urging them to own up to their mistakes with the simple task of asking for forgiveness.
“When you make a mistake and say ungodly things to your children sit down, look them straight in the eyes and tell them you love them,” Rainey said.
Families in need of assistance can get help by dialing 211 where people are standing by to help parents navigate through the system. Community based organizations such as churches and the PSFEC are always willing to connect those in need with those who can help.