Monique Cole: #ParentPower at DCPVCW

January 20, 2023

I attended my first PAVE meeting in December 2019.  I was certain that I was passionate about educational outcomes, but I was still unaware about the work of PAVE as an organization.

Nevertheless, during that first meeting, I saw just how serious parents were about their children’s education and the education of other children throughout the District. During the meeting, I learned about DC Parent Voice & Choice Week (DCPVCW). PAVE staff and parent leaders explained that during DCPVCW parents would lead meetings with DC elected officials and other education leaders to share their visions for our education system. As intriguing as the week sounded, I was still unsure about how I could make an impact as a PAVE parent leader.  

Then it happened – my very first DCPVCW meeting in January 2020. This was right before the pandemic, so the meetings were in person at the Wilson Building. I’d never set foot in the Wilson Building before this day, and when I entered, I felt a busy atmosphere in a sort of staging room with everyone all abuzz with potential energy. The excitement was palpable, but at the time I didn’t know why. Now, I recognize the energy as #ParentPower.  

Feeling slightly overwhelmed by the energy, I tried to stay out of the way and pay attention. Though I don’t recall the order of the meetings that I attended, I do recall attending meetings with the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) Paul Kihn, DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, and (then) At-Large Councilmember David Grosso. It was in these meetings where the veil was pulled back and I gained some certainty of exactly what PAVE represented as an organization.  

The parent leaders were running the show and it was a sight to behold! These meetings were exceptionally well-run by parent leaders who were prepared to ask meaningful questions and expected to receive meaningful answers.  

The meeting rooms were standing room only and emotions ranged from joyful to somber. I recall being so impressed by the fact that DME Kihn and DC councilmembers took these meetings, and how admirably the PAVE parent leaders performed – talk about accountability to your constituents!

Most of the PAVE parent leaders I encountered were Black and Brown women on a mission to improve the DC educational system.  It was impressive that they were being HEARD at all, much less by these decision-makers who I expected usually interacted with a different subset of the DC population. 

However, something about PAVE and all these people showing up wearing purple shirts and gold scarves seemed to bring a certain amount of respect and acknowledgement of the seriousness of the occasion. These PAVE people were bringing the FACTS. Again, this was pre-pandemic, so the only thing contagious that day was the energy. That prior potential energy had changed into actual energy. I caught it myself and had the audacity to approach my Councilmember after the meeting, who I had never met, in the hallway, and ask him about an area of concern for Ward 6 – accessibility of specialized programming. Just being in the presence of the other PAVE parent leaders made me feel empowered and emboldened! 

On my way home in the cab, I reflected on the day.  It had been packed.  My mind was full of facts and my body was full of emotions from the honest and open stories shared, but one thing was for sure – I was certain of the POWER that PAVE brings as an organization of parents dedicated to AMPLIFYING voices in education.