So, in 2017, when a friend of mine shared about an upcoming parent-led event (the 2017 PAVE Parent Policy Summit) that would include conversations about STEM programs, I was quick to RSVP. This event didn’t just reignite my passion for STEM, but it also ignited my identity as an advocate for equitable education overall.
Following the 2017 Summit, I got even more involved with PAVE, attending more events, meeting more parent leaders, and eventually applying and being accepted to the role as a Ward 5 PLE Board member.
The following year, I was asked to share about my experience finding STEM-related Out-of-School Time (OST) programs for my kids at the 2018 PAVE Parent Policy Summit.
Though nervous about the idea, I accepted the request because I knew my story was worth sharing. So, weeks later, in front of nearly 150 parents, caregivers, policymakers, and other education advocates, I began speaking.
It took one quick look out in the crowd to solidify my confidence. Though I forgot to bring my presentation notes up on stage, the sight of smiling, supportive faces of parent leaders calmed me. My voice strengthened with every snap and clap of approval as I shared my experiences trying to find affordable, attainable OST programs. And sharing the stage alongside my fellow parent leader, Fabio, helped me feel both literally and emotionally as though I was not alone.
I quickly rushed off stage after my presentation, not because of nerves, but because I was excited to talk with other parent leaders at my table. In small groups of 5-8 parents, we sat and discussed the four other policy issues on the Summit ballot which we would vote on later in the day.
Just like they did during my presentation, parents at my table listened intently to my story; they asked clarifying questions, connected my experiences to their own, and provided input and solutions for problems I shared.
Because my expertise related more to STEM and OST programs, I didn’t think I would be as engaged with the four other policy issues, but all it took was listening to other parents to share.
Hearing parents speak from the heart as they shared was enough to invoke interests for the other policy issues in me. Though our stories differed, I could relate to many moments and share my knowledge and resources to help others. These conversations made me feel like an empowered advocate, ready to join the movement and amplify our collective voice to call for change around the winning policy issues.
Spoiler alert: OST programs were not selected as a priority issue that year. Instead, parents voted for Transparent Citywide School Funding and Mental Health Supports and Trauma-Informed Training for All Schools!
When I heard the results, I wasn’t upset – because I still won. No matter the “winning” issues, I was inspired to advocate if it meant supporting the voices of the other parents I’d met, their children, and, in the end, every child and family District-wide.
I’ve attended every PAVE Parent Policy Summit – every single one is a blast and just as empowering as my first time.
I can’t wait for the Summit to return in-person this year: to see new and familiar parent faces, hear new stories, and create together an ever louder collective voice working to move the needle for education equity – across all policy areas – forward.
By Yvette Selby, Citywide PLE and Ward 5 PLE Board member