Saturday, August 22, 2009

Meeting the Parents

This past Thursday, Earleen Patterson and her staff for the S.O.A.R. program hosted a welcome reception for the 50 or so first-year students participating in G.A.M.E. and F.A.M.E. programs and their parents. There's always a special energy or spirit in the atmosphere as parents are seeing their children off to college, and I, as the elders in my community used to say, was just glad to be a witness.

All of the students, or "young scholars" as we call them, had participated in the Summer Reading Program, so I had gotten to correspond with each of them a few times over the course of the summer about Frederick Douglass's Narrative.

One unexpected and really wonderful outcome of the reading program was the immediate connection it allowed me to make with the participants' parents and families. As I met them during the course of the reception, they would tell me the name of their child, and I had a solid link to a comment that their daughter or son had made about the book in their responses to me. It also gave the family members and I a chance to share a common bond over the value of Douglass's work as a reading selection for young people in 2009.

When I first conceived of the summer program a couple of years ago, I certainly had no idea that reading Douglass with a group of young people in the summer leading up to their first semester in college would deepen my connection to their parents. "Get a chance to build connection with parents" is not one of the things you usually point out in the formal objectives section of the proposal. Yet, now in retrospect, the support and encouragement that the parents offered actually made the program resonate in broader ways.

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