There was a sense of accomplishment in the air as smiling parents gathered
with their children, trainers and Rector Frederick Lowy for a group photo
in the University Senate Chamber on Oct. 17.
The occasion was the presentation of certificates to parents who attended
the Institute in Management and Community Developments Summer Program
The Program, which will celebrate its 10th year in 2002, provides an opportunity
for parents from disenfranchised and predominately immigrant neighborhoods
to explore how they can become involved in their communities.
The Institute, which is part of the Centre for Continuing Education, collaborates
with community groups. More than 850 volunteers, workers, students and
other citizens attend the summer training program, including about 50
parents invited through Montreals Third Avenue Resource Centre.
Like most of the parents attending the evening ceremony, Asma Nemer said
the program helped her understand the citys public school system
and get involved with the education of her two sons, aged 4 and 7.
She arrived from Algeria last February not knowing much about Montreals
schools and what role parents can play in them. I encourage every
parent to take part in the Program, she said. Its so
important for parents to come up with their own ideas for education. After
all, we are closer to our kids.
Dr. Lowy, on hand to present each parent with a certificate, agreed. Education
is not something you leave solely to the teachers in the classrooms,
he said afterwards.
Helping them to participate effectively is one of the Programs primary
goals, said program coordinator Mireille Landry.
There are seats reserved for parents on the schools governing
boards, but it is difficult for them to have a voice newly arrived
parents especially, she said. At the Summer Program, parents
can discuss the obstacles they face, and build new skills.
Back to the classroom
Nour Kassis moved here from Syria two years ago. In Syria, she studied
fine arts, but here, she found it difficult to become engaged in the schooling
of her three children. With the help of her son Alfred, she explained
how the Summer Program changed all that by helping her participate in
decision-making for Alfreds Villeray elementary school.
It was like a dream come true, she said of the chance to get
back to the classroom and learn again.
At the ceremony, Landry drew attention to what can be achieved when determined
parents get together. She singled out a group of parents from Côte
des Neiges who succeeded in getting a new school built in their crowded
Danielle Landry, Third Avenue Resource Centre coordinator, was adamant
about how parents should approach community activism: Parents can
have access to the school system, but so often, its organized in
a way that inhibits them from questioning how decisions are made. Here,
they have the opportunity to be critics.