On February 26, Innovate Public Schools welcomed 100 parent leaders and education advocates from across the country for our National Parent Leader Institute. For three days, parents from across the Bay Area, Colorado, Connecticut, and Washington D.C. came together to learn how to build powerful, parent-led organizations in their communities that can effectively advocate for great public schools.

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“This experience motivates me and it teaches me that anyone is capable of taking action and doing something to help their community,” said Innovate parent leader Rocsana Enriquez from Redwood City. “We have to do something now or else what’s our world going to become later? Public schools failed me when I was young and I feel that innocent children don’t deserve this. By taking this training, I have learned that as a community, as parents, we have a lot of power to make things happen.”

The event kicked off with a message from Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King.

“It’s critical that parents feel connected and teachers feel supported. I want to congratulate you for taking this step in empowering yourselves to better understand how you can advocate for the changes that will make your children’s lives better including demanding great schools,” Dr. King told attendees.

From the principles of community organizing to holding a successful meeting with an elected official to understanding data anInnovate First Edits Leadership Conference 15d the key elements of high-performing schools, parents learned the skills they’ll need to make an impact for children.

“So many parents feel frustrated, alone and powerless when it comes to the quality of education in their neighborhood. As organizers, we work to break through that and help people build real and lasting power together,” said Jose Arenas, who leads Innovate’s organizing team. “The institute is a powerful experience for participants because they get inspired by and connected to others who are also working to create a future where every child gets the education she deserves.”

Institute attendees also included staff from a number of schools and advocacy organizations that work closely with families, including those in Innovate’s Community Organizer Training Program.

“It’s great to see families who have such power in themselves and power in their voice, and who feel so comfortable just standing up and advocating not only on behalf of their own child, but on behalf of all children. We need that same collective spirit among parents in Washington, D.C.,” said Maya Martin, a NewSchools Entrepreneur in Residence in Washington, D.C., and participant in Innovate’s Community Organizer Training Program.

“While work deeply with families and organizations here in the Bay Area, the institute is our opportunity make an impact nationally. Parents must be driving the change. At the same time, schools and advocacy organizations need to be truly hardwired for fostering authentic parent engagement and leadership,” said Matt Hammer, Founder and CEO of Innovate Public Schools. “I’m incredibly excited to see what the people gathered here this weekend will accomplish together in their communities over the years to come.”