When parents told Charles Mingo, principal at DuSable High School in Chicago, that they were afraid to volunteer at school because they hadn't graduated themselves, he turned what could have been an impediment into an opportunity. Since 1993, the school has allowed parents to earn their diplomas and volunteer in their children's school at the same time.
Under the Parent Academic Success Service (PASS) program, parents who left school in the eleventh or twelfth grade can simply re-enroll at DuSable as regular students subject to the same behavioral and performance expectations as their teenagers. "The parents, just by being there, help to keep classes calm and provide our teenaged students with strong adult role models," says parent coordinator Mary Jones.
DuSable recognizes that its older students have special needs. A full-time parent program coordinator meets with them regularly and helps resolve problems that arise from their dual roles as parents and students.
DuSable was able to establish PASS because, like other Chicago schools, it is run by a local school council comprised of the principal, six parents, two teachers, and two community members. Approximately twenty parents participate in PASS each year, but its impact goes far beyond numbers. Other parents respond to PASS as a symbol of the school's commitment to taking their needs and ideas seriously.
The school gets good attendance at workshops and meetings designed to connect families to services, help parents support learning, and keep them informed. "Seeing parents at the school regularly and having them in class inspires our students, parents, and staff," the principal says.