SAVANNAH – More than 180 local parents were honored on Thursday evening as the latest graduates of Savannah’s innovative Parent University program, aimed at encouraging life-long learning and promoting parent involvement in the development and education of the area’s children and youth. Held in the Savannah Civic Center’s Johnny Mercer Theater, this was the 15th annual Parent University graduation ceremony and the largest graduating class in the program’s history. WTOC-TV news anchor Dawn Baker served as emcee for the event.
“The classes you’ve taken at Parent University will help you prepare your children for academic achievement,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told graduates in his keynote address. “What you’ve learned about building emotional intelligence by instilling responsibility will help them become invaluable contributors to our communities. That’s important. In the end, Parent University not only helps children and families succeed, it strengthens the community.”
“Parent University is really about bringing neighbors together to share information, build relationships and learn from one another,” said Michael O’Neal, Executive Director of Parent University. “Parents know they will leave feeling energized and empowered by the experience – that’s why they get up on a Saturday morning to come, and why they keep coming back.”
Parent University has offered area parents more than 120 different classes over last 15 years, with topics ranging from preparing for standardized tests, to basic computer operation, to coping with the loss of a loved one. Three four-hour Saturday sessions are hosted at area schools throughout the year.
In partnership with the Savannah Early Childhood Foundation, Parent University also offers Early Learning College modules on Saturday mornings in different neighborhoods throughout the year. Early Learning College focuses on enhancing the parenting skills of individuals with children from birth to age three, aiming toward having all children ready for school. After local parents expressed an interest in more classes focused on parenting the youngest children, Early Learning College was launched. At the same time, research driven by Savannah Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs concluded such a program would fill a gap that existed within the community.
“The unique thing about Parent University is it’s really driven by the parents themselves, their feedback and their ideas,” said Paul Fisher, President of the Savannah Early Childhood Foundation, which has been a core supporter of the program for the past several years. “I think that’s why it’s still gaining momentum after 15 years. Families are telling us they want and need this program, and we’re committed to stitching together resources from around the community to support that demand.”
Planning is currently underway for the 2014-15 session of Parent University. In recognition of the organization’s contribution to the community, Live Oak Public Libraries recently announced that they have offered the program a dedicated office space at their Bull Street location.
About Parent University: Founded in 1999, Parent University is a 501c3 community collaborative that supports Savannah area families. This initiative promotes life-long learning and community building, encouraging parent involvement and participation in the education of our community’s children and youth. In our advanced society, each of us needs to keep abreast of new and innovative ways of teaching and learning. Parent University has provided a way. Learn more: www.parentuniversitysav.org
About the Savannah Early Childhood Foundation: Established in 2011, the Savannah Early Childhood Foundation (SECF) is a first-of-its-kind 501c3 organization, working to stitch together community resources to ensure that all Savannah children are ready for school. Combining public and private resources, SECF is uniquely focused on helping parents create high quality learning environments for their children starting at birth through age five. In partnership with Parent University and other community partners, SECF has developed and operates multi-session Early Learning College programs for parents in several neighborhoods throughout the city. To learn more about our community-based, parent-centric approach to early childhood development, visit www.savannahecf.org.