Partners in education: Unified launches Parent University


RACINE — It’s 5:30 on a Monday evening at Knapp Elementary School, and a small group of parents and their kids are gathered around a table talking about their day.

Pointing to a fabric rose, Kristine Jacobs, a child and family therapist with the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, asks the attendees to talk about the things in their day that were rosy or thorny, and about any “budding” plans or hopes they have for tomorrow.

“What from today is your beautiful moment? That is your rose,” asked Jacobs, who works out of the school’s mental health clinic.

“Your bud: That is what you want for tomorrow … And then thorn. Was there something from today that wasn’t good, that is still rubbing you the wrong way?”

The activity was Jacobs’ way getting the group — two moms and a father and his eighth-grade daughter — settled into a discussion about stress and wellness.

Later she led the group through an exploration of the eight areas of wellness and discussed tips for spotting and managing stress.

Called “Whole Body Stress, Whole Body Healing,” the presentation was one of two programs that helped launch Racine Unified School District’s outreach initiative, Parent University.

Organized by Unified’s Office of Family & Community Engagement, the effort is aimed at helping parents become full partners in their children’s education, by offering free workshops, information sessions, activities and events that will equip families with new or additional skills, knowledge, resources and confidence.

The workshops are open not just to parents, but the community at large. The district currently has about a half dozen presentations scheduled through the end of October on topics such as parenting, wellness and academics.

The program is “an engagement strategy designed to encourage parents to build and enhance their capacity and confidence to gain new skills and knowledge (so they can) better support the life skills and academic success of their children,” said Chrishirella Sutton, manager of the Office of Family & Community Engagement.

Of the parents who gathered at Knapp for Jacobs’ presentation on Oct. 9, none came from Knapp. Instead there were families from Walden, McKinley and Goodland schools.

Each said they had gotten a prerecorded phone message from the district letting them know about the program.

During the “rose, bud, thorn” exercise, parent Gaynell Beaudin said her “rose” for the day was Jacobs’ presentation.

“I am always looking for more resources for mindfulness, grounding and meditation,” she said.

Information about upcoming Parent University presentations is available via the district’s website, at www.rusd.org/district/parent-university-0, or by calling the Office of Family & Community Engagement at 262-631-7071 or 262-631-7053.



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