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New Haven families celebrate parent leaders and learners

March 15, 2018

Eighty parents, grandparents, children, and community members gathered in the Cohen Auditorium at the Yale Child Study Center on February 28, 2018 to celebrate the first graduates of the Parents, Partners, and Peers (PPP) program sponsored by the Comer School Development Program (SDP) at the Yale Child Study Center.

Over five days in October 2017, Camille Cooper, Ed.D. and Martha Okafor, Ph.D. trained six Parent Leaders to facilitate the 10-session Parents, Partners, and Peers Program. Dr. Cooper is the SDP’s Director of Teaching and Learning and the leads the organization’s PPP work with support from Sarah McIver. Dr. Okafor, the former Community Services Administrator for the City of New Haven and a lecturer at the Yale School of Nursing, developed the Smart and Secure Children program at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and worked with the Comer SDP to adapt it for the New Haven community.

Against a backdrop of a black and white photo of him with his parents, Maggie and Hugh Comer, and his siblings, Thelma, Louise, Charles, and Norman, Dr. James P. Comer, the founder and director of the Comer SDP, said that he was delighted to see so many families at the celebration. “I’ve always believed that to ensure their children’s success in school and in life, parents must prepare them for school. Parents and schools need to work together to support children’s development and learning whether at home or in school.”

Dr. Cooper presented each of the Parent Leaders with flowers, recognizing them for their leadership and commitment to supporting the New Haven parents that participated in the Parents, Partners and Peers program. The six Parent Leaders are Elizabeth Yarborough, Makia Richardson, Shamayla Adams from Brennan-Rogers School in the West Rock neighborhood; and Yesica Sanchez, Reyna Perez, and Aurelia Yocupicio from Columbus Family Academy in Fair Haven.

“We are a dedicated program to making our peers and parents as good as they can be and better. We are committed to providing meaningful, impactful training today for shaping the leaders of tomorrow by enabling leaders to move beyond who they are right now and whom they can become in the future. Always remember: Knowledge is power,” said Parent Leader Elizabeth Yarborough.

Aurelia Yocupicio, a Parent Leader from Columbus, said that PPP helped her “as a mother to value and give more attention to the needs of my children and to feel proud of who they are. My purpose is to continue learning more about children's behavior and to talk to other parents about the benefits they can get by attending these trainings.”

Makia Richardson, a Parent Leader at Brennan-Rogers, said that they learned to figure out what their children are communicating with their behavior, instead of yelling at or punishing them.

“Each class was great, the parents were attentive and willing to participate were thrilled with each topic. We remembered sad and happy moments,” said Yesica Sanchez, a Parent Leader at Columbus. “Some cried with emotion as they remembered what had happened with their children and what they had gone through as children.”

Dr. Okafor said that "every child deserves the best start in life that is not dependent on the socio-economic condition of the parent. To give every child a fair chance of developing appropriately and becoming school ready at five years old, we should actively engage parents to learn and apply age-appropriate early childhood developmental activities in their daily routines and experiences with their children. The P3 program aims at accomplishing this goal to reduce education gaps and associated disparities in early childhood."

“I am convinced of the power of the program by the testimonies of the participants,” said Dr. Cooper. “We are excited about training the next group of Parent Leaders and the Parents, Partners, and Peers groups they will lead. Strong families make strong communities.”

Submitted by Cynthia Savo on March 15, 2018