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 from birth to 5 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 taught in “Early Learning College” at Parent University (ELC). ELC/Parent University is not a physical structure but 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.
Parent University has developed several locally relevant parent training/early childhood educational modules. Parent University is not a physical structure. Rather a collection of educational modules offered in neighborhood settings to registered parents.
There are traditional Parent U sessions and Early Learning College sessions: all held on given Saturdays from 9am – 1pm. The sessions are divided into 2 – 3 periods. Breakfast, lunch and childcare are provided to all participants.
There are over 50 individual research driven classes in inventory for ELC. These classes are all taught by content experts.
Sessions cover a wide variety of topics, including but not limited to:
- How to talk to your child about sexual abstinence
- Helping your child prepare to pass standardized tests
- Learn tips to help your child develop reading skills
- Emotional intelligence – Developing power over your emotions
- COM: Computer Operating (in) Minutes
- Coping With The Loss Of A Loved One * Dealing with grief & lose and how to move forward….
- Knowing The responsibility Level of Your Child – Discover reasonable responsibility levels of children.
Effectively transitioned all sessions online
858 parents trained to create high quality learning environments for their young children, each session attracted 200-250 parents
294 parents graduated in a virtual ceremony
Expanded to Pensacola, Florida
Responding to COVID19, started Tech College at Parent University
2021 Project Goals
Continue to offer Early Learning College at Parent University, Traditional Parent University, Leadership Academy, Tech College at Parent University (new), and Parent U Experiences (including tailored and empowerment programs (preparing children for school, navigating the public educational systems to ensure success of their children at school, detention center community re-entry program), Community Garden, Job Training, Adult Education, Financial Training, and Health and Wellness Education