The Partnership for Community Action has a longstanding commitment to supporting families by providing opportunities to develop parent engagement and community leadership skills. For the past year, we have particularly focused on supporting young parents ages 16-28 through a new Young Parents Cohort. This cohort employed PCA’s community advocacy framework, along with the expertise of fellow educational and family-centered organizations. In the program, we led 18 parents through a parenting development curriculum with Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors (AP/OD). Ten of these young parents committed to a pilot project with Future Focused Education that provided parents with supplemental professional skills and economic empowerment.
What is the curriculum?
The cohort started with the AP/OD curriculum, a 10-session program that supports families in school readiness, family well-being and civic engagement and advocacy. Following their completion of the AP/OD curriculum, the young parent cohort embarked on a 10-week community organizing pilot project. PCA Community Advocacy Manager, Marisela Ruiz-Sinaloa, developed an adapted community organizing curriculum that considers the priorities unique to young parents. The parents met on a weekly basis to establish the legislative priorities they wanted to advocate for that would best serve their families.
These priorities were developed into messaging campaigns that told the narrative of the parents’ lived experiences. These messages were a component of their action plan: if they pursued their policy priority, how would they actually execute a campaign? Which stakeholders would they include? How would they navigate conflict between policymakers and constituents?
The PCA & Future Focused partnership
The community organizing sessions were complemented by a workforce development training in partnership with Future Focused Education. The training particularly focused on transforming the community organizing workshop into a paid, work-based learning opportunity. The program design was multi-generational , positing that young parent interns would gain the confidence, skills, and social capital for advancement onto viable career pathways, ultimately increasing health and prosperity for themselves and their children.
Through the training, the participating parents gained insight on how to professionalize their community organizing. Some of the organizing concepts they explored in the curriculum included the following:
- Collective power
- Calculated vulnerability
- Strategic agitation
- Power analysis
Although each parent in the cohort shared various goals for their own future, including education and employment aspirations, they gained applicable skills to any area of work as community organizers. Likewise, the relationships developed with their mentors at PCA and Future Focused function as social capital they can leverage in the future. Many parents expressed the self-confidence they developed through this curriculum as a tool for the future.
“This group was motivated and determined to make a difference in their community. They embraced and learned to be out of their comfort zone that empowered them to take the lead to make a difference together,” Itzel Guillen, Future Focused Education X3 Intern Coach.
Hear more about the experience of Jennifer Guereca, one of the parents from the group:
“I believed that I did not have any time for myself, and thanks to [this curriculum], I found the time. I know that by taking these classes, I’m taking care of my daughters and I’m preparing for something better.” Not only did Jennifer find the confidence as a parent, she also found the confidence as a changemaker. “We realized our dreams [because], at first, [The program leaders] asked about our dreams, both for us and what we wanted for our children. And it was nothing more than a simple question why we could actually achieve our dreams.”
Our Young Parents Cohort sustains our mission of building power among families and inspiring them to make change in their communities. By combining the expertise and curriculum from our partner organizations, we have encouraged young parents to be active in their child’s development, focus on their family well-being, and to become community activists.