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Discovering RCSD’s Free Parent Advocacy Programs

Op/Ed By Jerome Underwood –


Jerome H. Underwood photo (1)What’s new this summer? The Rochester City School District (RCSD) has launched “My Brother’s Keeper,” the title program for a series of parenting workshops.

As a result, parents, grandparents and guardians of male students of color in grades Pre-K to 12 will have an opportunity to participate in free, specially-planned workshops that have been developed to enrich and enlighten families raising sons.

“Strengthening the Black Family” is a seven-week series that will run from July 11 through Aug. 24, and “Parent Power” is a five-week series that will run from July 19 through Aug.16.

The My Brother’s Keeper Parent Workshop Summer Series is a part of RCSD’s parent and community engagement effort to improve outcomes for boys and young men of color.

Consequently, throughout July and August, the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and guardians of our young people will have an opportunity to take advantage of a number of culturally-responsive seminars which have been aimed to strengthen families, as we collectively guide our young people from the cradle to successful careers.

It is the voices of parents that aid schools in developing effective academic environments and relationships for children to succeed.

So, let’s start helping our children by helping their parents understand what the critical issues of their engagement are, regarding their children and the school system.

The five-week workshop series “Parent Power” will also focus on parental advocacy, in order to help parents understand which organizations are available to them as resources, as well as the process of engaging as parents on behalf of their children.

Each workshop has been setup to help parents build relationships amongst themselves, share their ideas, gain knowledge about the school system and their role within it, to build skills, and commit to action.

Weekly workshop sessions will also allow the instructors to cover parental engagement topics in the following areas:

  • Parents will learn the difference between traditional and transformative parent engagement. They will discuss ways to improve parental engagement within their schools, and role-play how to share those recommendations with a decision-maker.
  • Parents will learn how to develop and refine a personal narrative which defines their relationship with the community and school. Parents will explore how their personal narrative relates to the challenges they may face in raising young boys of color. They will learn how to use their stories to advocate for solutions to those challenges.
  • Parents will also explore the challenges faced by young men of color in the RCSD. They will learn about who has the power to make changes that remove those barriers. And, finally, parents will role-play meeting those decision-makers to advocate for a proposed solution.
  • Parents will also learn about the school-to-prison pipeline, and how it affects young boys of color in the RCSD. They will also discuss what steps can be taken to make schools a more welcoming place, and how to build stronger relationships between students and staff. They will also learn how to use a Climate Walk Survey Tool, which evaluates the climate of a school building.
  • Parents will learn about the community school model, and what community schools currently exist within the RCSD. And they will develop the skills to speak with their neighbors about community schools, and learn how to make the commitments to do so.

We encourage parents to invest in themselves for the benefit of their families, by utilizing the opportunities that will be presented in this workshop series. Starting July 19,, and every Wednesday for five weeks, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the workshops will be held at School No. 45 – Mary McCloud Bethune, located at 1445 Clifford Ave. Interested individuals may register for the free “Parent Power” workshop series online at

More info on these other aspects of the summer series will also be included in next week’s Minority Reporter.

(Jerome Underwood, RCSD’s Director of Family Initiatives, is director of the program. He can be reached by email at, or by calling 585-262-8213. The My Brother’s Keeper Family & Community Engagement Program is funded by the New York State Department of Education.)

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