About the project
An initiative founded by a local resident, Michael O’Neal, 19 years ago, Parent University is helping to break the cycle of persistent generational poverty and crime in Savannah, Georgia. They do this by enhancing parenting and leadership skills for parents who have grown up in and live in poverty in Savannah urban neighborhoods beginning with and focusing on parents of children birth to 3 years old – a stage of life where the vast majority of brain development occurs.
This program aims to make ready and prepare the children of the very poor for school, through educating and increasing engagement of parents (80% mothers) with the education of their children in 9 urban neighborhoods in Savannah, Georgia where 97% are African Americans, and 95% live under the US poverty line. For this population, failure in the school system is the norm versus the exception.
How we help
Three fundamental conclusions led to the design of the endeavor:
- Children of children having children has over time significantly diminished the natural transfer of parenting skills from one generation to the next. Parents simply do not realize that they are their child’s first teacher.
- The vast majority of brain development occurs in the first 2-3 years of life
- There is a pattern observed that in that community resources are created to focus on the child (“fix” the child) beginning at age four. Thus, we realize resources like Pre-K, Head Start, Kindergarten.
This creates the perfect storm for children born into this environment: All of the brain development is occurring, parents do not realize that they are their child’s first teacher (the belief is that the “education of my child begins at school age; it is the responsibility of the schools, and they are failing to educate my child”); and too few community resources engage the child until the child is 4.
To fill this gap, the Parent University, in working with the Rotary and Kiwanis Club has developed several locally relevant parent training/early childhood educational modules. These modules are thought in “Early Learning College at Parent University (ELC). ELC/Parent University is not a physical structure. Rather a collection of educational modules offered in neighborhood settings/gatherings to registered parents. The ELC modules targets parents of children birth to 3/4/5 years old and focus on parent skills content.
Over 900 parents attend Parent University on a regular basis in about 8 neighborhoods
2019 Project Goals
The goal is to reach 2,000 parents in the next 3 years