African American Parent Involvement Day is more than a name

Monday is African American Parent Involvement Day — and right there, you probably wonder what I have to say about it, because it’s all there in the name. People want black parents to get more involved in their kids’ lives. There’s a big disparity in Minnesota between the academic performance of white kids and minority kids. Experts figure more parent involvement can only improve the picture.

But it’d be nice to take a minute to recognize that the Twin Cities has a very active group of African American parents who take their children’s education seriously. That became pretty clear during the uproar following Minneapolis Public School’s decision to close North High School. Apart from that, local black parents have put on several events lately that sought to teach kids about African American history and their own emerging identity.

Among those active parents is Kristin Morris, who was at Ames/Sheridan Elementary School in St. Paul, getting stuff done as co-chair of the PTA when I talked to her last week. Morris is at her sons’ school so often that they no longer get embarrassed about it. Morris said her older son, fourth-grader Kencale, told her his friends think she’s cool. It’s a compliment she’s pretty proud of.

Morris said a straightforward thing like African American Parent Involvement Day can actually have a sophisticated effect – it gets parents and students together with other parents and students. What they have in common is all around them – the school.

“Parents get together, we become friends, and our kids get together and they’re comfortable with one another, they can do homework together,” Morris said. “You build a cohort of kids who want to do well together and you just want to foster that hunger for learning.”

She said creating a community focused on kids who want to learn is an incredibly effective way of reinforcing the importance of education on children. And that makes African American Parent Involvement Day sound pretty important.

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