The official application cycle has closed, but a Gwinnett County-based community organization that focuses primarily on education issues is seeking more male applicants for its upcoming community training program. The Gwinnett Parent Coalition to dismantle the school-to-prison-pipeline (aka Gwinnett STOPP) has received an overwhelming response from female applicants, but organizers say they’re holding out for more men to sign up this month. The school-to-prison-pipeline is a national trend wherein some advocates say children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. JJIE.org’s Chandra R. Thomas spoke to co-chairwoman Marlyn Tillman about the Parent Leadership Institute, which officially kicks off next month.
JJIE: What is Gwinnett STOPP?
TILLMAN: We are a parent-led organization; we’re a volunteer organization that was formed in 2007. We had our big coming out at the Gwinnett County School Board meeting in 2008. We told the school board that we are here to open up a dialogue about what’s happening in our schools. Our vision is to dismantle the school-to-prison-pipeline through parent-driven, community-centered partnerships.
JJIE: What is the Parent Academy?
TILLMAN: It is an in depth eight-month training program geared primarily toward Gwinnett County parents and community organizers in grassroots organizations. We focus on the school-to-prison-pipeline and school climate issues. School climate is more about how students are treated at school and how they feel about their school. For the program we’ll meet the second Saturday of most months from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. August through March. During the graduation ceremony they will present to the community the group projects that they worked on through the course of the program. We’re looking at having about 18-20 people in the program.
JJIE: How did your organization get the word out about this program?
TILLMAN: We did some recruiting within our organization. We also sent out some emails and gave out information at community events. We have a Facebook page, so I guess we also spread the word through social media. We’ve also been doing a lot of recruiting within the disability community with the parents of kids with disabilities.
JJIE: What are you looking for in an applicant?
TILLMAN: We’re looking for parents who are ready to take that next step in their advocacy; parents who want to get more involved, but they don’t know how. We are looking for parents who want to support schools in a different way. Gwinnett County parents are our target audience, however that’s not all we will accept.
JJIE: So you’re looking for more men to apply, right?
TILLMAN: Yes. The application cycles has closed unless you’re a male (laughs). We are heavy on the female end. If any many are interested in applying we hope that they will contact us soon. It’s open to anyone in Gwinnett County, but it’s not limited to those residents. We have an application and an interview process. We ask about your community involvement, we ask questions about community awareness. We just like to see where you are. The selected participants will be notified this month.
JJIE: Is this an ongoing program?
TILLMAN: We are the recipient of the Just And Fair School Fund Grant. Through this grant we have developed the Parent Leadership Institute. It is a two-year grant, so this training is definitely running for at least two years. Those who didn’t get to apply this time can definitely take note and apply for our next one. This is our first time ever getting a grant so we’re excited. We’re a grassroots coalition. The Just And Fair School Fund Grant is a fund created to help organizations like us that are doing this type of work in a volunteer capacity. We’re primarily a parent and youth organization working on School-To-Prison-Pipeline and school climate issues.
JJIE: What are some of the topics that will be covered in the sessions?
TILLMAN: We’ll have sessions like ‘the ABCs of discipline’ which will talk about the importance of appropriate, balanced and consistent discipline. We will go over the Gwinnett County Schools Code of Conduct. We will talk about alternatives to suspension and expulsion. We will teach them how to access data, analyze it, and how to present through telling a story.
JJIE: What’s the overall objective of this program? What do you want participants to learn most?
TILLMAN: Gwinnett STOPP was started by some advocates who started talking about the need for bigger community issues to get addressed; this is no different. We want people to walk away with more community resources. We want our participants to walk away more informed about the community.
To learn more about Gwinnett STOPP’s Parent Leadership Institute and the application process, email info@GwinnettSTOPP.org or visit the organization’s Facebook page.