Summertime Is A Crucial Time For Community Engagement

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Cookouts, visits to the beach and camp for the kids are all a part of the summertime allure. Depending on school schedules, New Jersey students have on average 47 to 71 days of summer vacation between June and September. Summer months give families the opportunity to relax and spend time together.

The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) has utilized the summer months to engage the Newark community a variety of ways. In May, the "Men of BAEO" program was a opportunity to pull business leaders, community leaders, fathers, and government officials together to exchange thoughts about the current educational landscape in Newark, and ways for men to work together on different community initiatives that benefit children in our community. A similar gathering the "Ladies of BAEO" was held in July to continue the conversation from a different perspective. Ultimately both gatherings discussed ways BAEO and the community at large can work together to create positive change.

In July, BAEO partnered with the Schuyler/Hunterdon homeowners association in the South Ward of Newark to host a community clean up and block party. Abandoned properties were boarded up, and with help from the City of Newark vacant lots used for illegal dumping were cleaned. A block party for the neighborhood followed all the hard work.

In August, pastors from all over Newark gathered for the first clergy roundtable dinner. The dinner gave us an opportunity to talk about the clergy's role in education and ways that the clergy community can make a positive impact for children and their families.

Throughout the summer, NJ BAEO has created opportunities like these to engage our community. A substantial body of evidence demonstrates that family and community participation is a crucial resource not only for individual student achievement, but also for catalyzing and sustaining school improvement and for building school cultures that support all students. NJ BAEO knows the success of any movement depends largely on how well you are able to engage your community. Community and stakeholder input can help shape the vision for improvement for all schools and students. Building quality relationships helps NJ BAEO ensure we are responding to local needs, and helps to build support for our desire to assist with providing high quality educational options for children and their families whether they are traditional public schools or public charter schools.

NJ BAEO's objective is to build credibility and trust, which allows us to develop supporters and champions for true education reform and make sure that their needs, wishes and voices are taken into account when decisions are made by leaders that ultimately affect thousands of children and their families.Research tells us schools that have partnered with community organizing groups to train parents in organizing and advocacy skills, devise strategies for broadening family and community engagement, and develop teams of parents and teachers to lead school improvement activities have seen improvements in school climate, social capital, teacher parent ties, and teacher professional capacity, as well as growth in student performance. NJ BAEO will continue to engage the community through a variety of initiatives that allows us to inform, inspire, and empower for change.

- LaVar Young
NJ BAEO Director