This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Today the advocacy group Parent Power honored its parent members and kicked off the Fourth of July weekend with a barbecue.
At the Panati Recreational Center in North Philadelphia, parents and community members mingled with District administrators over hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and more, as their children played on the center’s playground.
The event was organized to thank Parent Power members for their support, said Sylvia Simms, founder of Parent Power and a former member of the School Reform Commission.
“This is some hard, thankless work,” said Simms to the group members. “But we are doing God’s work. And I appreciate each and every one of you. Thank you.”
Before the party guests lined up to get their food, they heard from some invited guests – School Reform Commissioners Estelle Richman, Joyce Wilkerson, and Christopher McGinley, and Frances Frost, family ambassador from the U.S. Department of Education. Simms is a former SRC member, serving from January 2013 to December of last year.
“We all are doing a job because we love children,” said Richman, the newest member of the SRC. “And I can’t think of a single thing more important than what you do for your family members. These are the most important people in all of our lives.”
Founded in 2009, Parent Power teaches parents about the education system and about navigating the school system in the best interest of their children. Parent Power helps parents with civic and community engagement.
“No one is going to come to our community and help us,” said Simms. “We have to help ourselves. We try to rebuild our community. We affirm the community.”
Cecil Parsley, 50, has been a member since the organization started. He has four children who graduated from District schools, finished college, and are now employed in lucrative careers. He said that Parent Power has helped him “immensely” along the way.
“I am celebrating seeing the progression of all of this,” said Parsley. “And remembering when it was just eight and it was just 10 [people], as it grows, and seeing all of the people that started with us that are advocates in their own right.”