By Katherine Tucker
As parents, we want to do everything we can to ensure that our kids grown up in a safe, supportive community where they can thrive, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by challenges and not know what we can and should do to make our community better for our kids. One local program is attempting to change that, by empowering parents with the civic skills and tools to become leading advocates for children: the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI).
The Parent Leadership Training Institute is a free 20-week training program, whose cornerstones are respect, validation and a belief that when the tools of democracy are understood, the public will become active participants in their communities. While most parents are deeply concerned about the impact of schools, community and the environment on their children, many don’t know how systems work or how policy decisions are made. By participating in PLTI, parents develop an understanding of how the systems that their children are engaged in work, and they develop an understanding of the steps to take to work within those systems to achieve positive change.
PLTI training is delivered in three sections. It starts in January with a Saturday retreat, to develop group cohesion and communication, and to define our mission. Thereafter, we meet weekly on Thursday evenings, beginning with a family dinner from 5-6pm, followed by class from 6-9pm. During the first 10 weeks, classes focus on the self, and understanding personal history and its impact on the perception of leadership. The second 10 weeks shift to a focus on politics, policy and media. Each participant in the program selects a community project in order to practice the skills and tools they learn each week. Each project is self-directed, and is inspired by the concern and passion that each participant brings to PLTI. Some examples of community projects that have come from the more than 300 Danbury PLTI alumni over the years include the creation of a soccer program for children with special needs, the establishment of a community garden, the summer movies at the lake series and modifications to testing procedures to accommodate diabetic students, to name just a few. Among PLTI parent leaders, approximately 40 percent choose to focus project work on education, 30 percent focus on health (physical and/or social emotional health) and 30 percent focus on community and economic development.
While parents attend the Thursday evening PLTI classes, they are welcome and encouraged to bring their children with them, where they will participate in the Children’s Leadership Training Institute (CLTI) program. CLTI is a literacy-based curriculum for children ages 3-12 that parallels PLTI’s weekly themes to instill leadership skills and civic knowledge in an age-appropriate way for our young leaders-to-be. Children of CLTI leave each week with a new book that is theirs to keep for their family library! And, as we hold our classes at Western Connecticut State University, parents are modeling higher education and lifelong learning, lessons we know the kids notice — asking mom or dad if they are “going to college tonight.”
The program concludes with both a local graduation ceremony, as well as a graduation ceremony at the Legislative Office Building at the State Capitol in Hartford, with PLTI classes from across the state graduating together and certificates from the Connecticut General Assembly issued to each graduate. It is truly an impressive event!
Who should apply for PLTI? In short, anyone who wants to improve the lives of children, families and communities should apply. To request an application, call PLTI coordinator Katherine Tucker, at 203-797-8088, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. PLTI – helping parents who care become parents who LEAD.