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School Readiness and Portland Empowered


Starting Strong is proud to support the work of Portland Empowered as one strategy towards greater parent engagement. Emily Thielman of Portland Empowered shares her thoughts after the  first cohort of early childhood Parent Ambassadors complete their training. 

How did the partnership with STST and P.E. come to begin?

The match between Starting Strong and Portland Empowered was a natural one: Starting Strong had developed a focus on parent engagement strategies as a critical part of improving early childhood outcomes, and Portland Empowered had developed a robust parent organizing infrastructure at the middle and high school level, with a vision to expand to parents of younger children.

What did P.E.  envision as the partnership began?

Portland Empowered has involved parent organizers at every stage of the process as a partnership has developed. PE began the partnership by launching its first ever Parent Ambassador Training program, designed and led by PE parent organizers. The program trained 20 parents, most of them parents of preK or elementary students, in the basics of outreach, organizing, and ways to get more involved in school systems. All stages of the training — from recruitment to the closing celebration — presented good opportunities to build new relationships with preK and elementary partners.

As you work towards this vision, what are you hoping to build upon? Have there been any highlights?  Challenges?

Now that there is a new cohort of trained PE leaders who are parents of younger children, Portland Empowered is excited to build on their enthusiasm and commitment to begin engaging more deeply in education issues. With these parents we are particularly interested in cultivating opportunities for parent input into topics such as preK expansion and Kindergarten readiness.

What connections do you hope the work will make?  

We hope to connect parents at different levels, whether that is to individual schools where their children attend, to other parents who are invested in making a different in education, or to district-wide initiatives aimed at impacting outcomes for kids in our community. We hope to support parents and provide them with guidance about different paths for getting more involved and for helping to bring about sustainable change that they want to see.

Upcoming events or opportunities your team is excited about?

We hope to be designing and co-hosting Shared Space Cafe conversations in 2019 that bring together parents and school partners to talk about topics identified as important by parents. We are also just really excited to get to know all the newly engaged parents and help them build connections at many levels!