In the early 1990’s, focus groups were held across Connecticut to find out from the people “What do kids need to know and ‘be’ BEFORE they enter kindergarten?” Elaine Zimmerman, former Executive Director of the Connecticut Commission on Children, held these focus group meetings with an intentional variety of people - from inner city to rural settings – with “non-traditional stakeholders”: the school custodian, fire fighters, children’s librarians, parents.
What she learned later became the draft of Connecticut’s School Readiness legislation.
But through it all, she found that parents at the table had numerous ideas, policy and program suggestions, and analysis of the social and economic trends effecting children. Yet, across region, class, race and educational level, parents did not perceive themselves as a constituency for children, as change agents for children. Their constant refrain was: “But I’m just a parent”.
So, we learned that parents HAVE the will and the motivation to change children’s lives, but lack the advocacy skills to make change happen. And so a 10-week program was drafted and piloted by parents in Hartford Connecticut. Their feedback is what made PLTI what it is today: A Harvard-level course on civics and democracy that enables parents to lead on behalf of children.
Graduates from PLTI have gone on to run for public office, have become leaders in their schools, neighborhoods and communities, have changed careers after being inspired. PLTI reaches a parent wherever he or she is at. For some parents, attending their Board of Education or City Council meeting is a “stretch”. PLTI helps parents stretch by providing knowledge, and by providing opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge in their local communities.
PLTI has grown to cross city limits, state boundaries and national borders. Backed by the support of a national team and accessing the skill of parents around the world, PLTI is making waves in public policy, government goals and school districts.
Visit the National Parent Leadership Institute for more information.