Across Champaign and Urbana earlier this month, schools celebrated National African-American Parent Involvement Day by welcoming parents to classes, introducing them to school staff members and having students perform for them.
At Champaign Central High School, parents were welcomed into classes and the school hosted a lunch for them.
While the parents ate, community organizations told them about their services, and school staff members talked about the importance of not only getting students to school, but making sure they're going to class.
Students performed some of the same presentations given at their Black History Month program earlier in the month.
Junior Collette "CoCo" Harmon read an original poem, and the African-American Club offered its version of "Joyful, Joyful," complete with dancing. African-American Club sponsor Tiffany Gholson also showed parents a PowerPoint presentation of newspaper clippings, yearbook pages and interviews with community members the club has been digitizing and compiling to keep track of its history at Central.
At Champaign's Centennial High School, Principal Greg Johnson said parents were welcome all day for National African-American Involvement Day. The school puts on a special program during the school's lunch hours as well.
"We use it as a way to make the school as welcoming as possible," Johnson said. "The idea behind it is to help to encourage parent involvement in the local schools, specifically for our African-American families. ... Parent involvement is huge. It is the single most important factor in student success."
At Urbana High School, Principal Laura Taylor said the day is just one of many initiatives to get parents in the school.
"The more parents feel comfortable about coming into the schools and meeting our administrators and our counselors ... the better it will be for their kids," Taylor said. "It's just one of the ways we try to encourage parent involvement."
This year, the school put together breakout sessions for parents — on how teachers instruct students and to collect input from parents on how to increase parent involvement, about the high school's accomplishments and how parents think the school could improve, and about available community resources.
The school also had juniors and seniors vote for the teachers they thought deserved to be recognized, and the school did so for 11 teachers, Taylor said. Teachers were also invited to dine with the parents, if their schedules allowed, she said.
"We just want to make parents feel comfortable about coming into the school, it's as simple as that," Taylor said. "We need to work together to make this the best learning environment possible."