Gaby L. Fraser: The POWER of parent voice

September 20, 2021

I am a parent of three DC public school graduates, a grandmother of five current DC public school and public charter school scholars – two of whom have graduated. I’ve always been involved with the Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) and Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTOs) my children attended.  

As the PTA President of SEED Public Charter School of Washington, DC, I participated in the National School Choice Week every year. At that time, National School Choice Week consisted of each school planning week-long activities for our scholars, culminating in a final event.

In 2016, I received an email from a friend who shared a name with me – Ms. Maya Martin Cadogan, (then Maya Martin) and the name of organization she had created called PAVE. Little did I know that these names would have such an impact on my work as an education advocate. 

My friend suggested that I consider attending a DC-focused event that Maya and PAVE were hosting called  “DC Parent Voice and Choice Week.” The event afforded parents across DC the opportunity to meet directly with their ward-based and At-Large DC Councilmembers. I ended up attending the event, and because of the amazing experience I had, I’ve continued my service to DC’s children as a PAVE parent leader ever since.

Since that first PAVE event I attended, Ms. Maya, the PAVE staff, and PAVE parent leaders have proven to be a powerhouse when it comes to understanding educational policies that can provide equitable, high-quality education for all DC children. We have truly amassed a group of talented and experienced professionals who share a passion for OUR children’s future!

PAVE stands for Parents Amplifying Voices in Education, and honestly, the name lives up to the hype! PAVE supports parents by ensuring they have the POWER (or #ParentPower as we like to say) to stand before District leaders and speak their mind regarding their wants and desires for their children. Also, working together as parent leaders has led to MORE supports for our kids as they continue learning and growing. It is truly a movement of change.

Parent leaders come from across the District and are from every walk of life – we have parent leaders of different ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. Quite frankly, there should be a “D” in PAVE for “Diversity” because of how much it’s celebrated and exhibited. PAVE ensures that meetings, resources, and information are translated so our Latinx and Spanish-speaking Sisters and Brothers are included in every part of our parent-led advocacy. Our ward-based boards are decorated with parent leaders of all races and ages. And the Citywide Board brings together parent leaders from wards 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8; being a part of Citywide Board space has been great for experiences to be shared and heard.

Yes, there are many differences between parent leaders, but our differences make us stronger because they bring us together to help us fight for one common cause – our children. 

As a PAVE parent leader and Citywide Board member, I have led panels with DC Councilmembers and asked the “good trouble” questions. I’ve made my voice heard at multiple Community Budget Sessions with the Mayor and DC Council Budget Hearings. And I’ve shown up in my PAVE Purple to countless PAVE Parent Leaders in Education (PLE) Board Kickoffs, PLE and Citywide Board meetings, and Coffee Chats. 

Through all of these events, I’ve bonded with PAVE parent leaders and have exhibited my ability as an education advocate to continue the fight for an education system that is rooted in equity, is top-quality, and exhibits full transparency.  

I encourage EVERY mother, father, caregiver, and family member to GET INVOLVED! Join the movement and amplify your voice. Moreover, I extend a special invitation to all the grandmothers and grandfathers – our children may no longer be in school, but we do have our precious grandchildren and great-grandchildren that need our support. PAVE can benefit from our seasoned wisdom and leadership, and it is our responsibility to ensure that our elected officials hear us and take our knowledge and talent into consideration when making decisions affecting our children.

As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, it is important now more than ever that we amplify our voices to help make concrete change. The lack of equity across DC and the educational divide has widened. But #ParentPower CAN’T be stopped. When we come together and use our voices – we WILL be heard. And we can make the change our children deserve.

By Gaby L. Fraser, 2021-2022 Citywide Board member and Ward 7 PLE Board member