INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to social entrepreneurs and leaders of mission-driven organizations who are making an impact in their communities and industries.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Parent Engagement Network (PEN) engages, educates and empowers parents to promote protective factors, address risk taking behaviors, and prepare their children for adulthood. We collaborate with the school district, trained parents as leaders in schools (PEN PALS), and community partners to implement large educational events, documentary showings, workshops, coffee talks, and book groups. Parents are left more confident and prepared by providing them with a safe community, evidence-based information, knowledge of available resources, and strategies for responding to issues when they arise. Our key initiatives include building strong family school partnerships, raising resilient families, involving parents in drug and alcohol abuse prevention, managing stress and anxiety, and raising kids in a digital age.
WHY DO YOU DO IT?
Pen serves at least 1,500 parents during a nine month school year. We envision a community where all youth and families are thriving. Our mission is to support parents in raising healthy, happy youth. We believe that parents are the key to healthy families, and that they have a strong desire to be the best parents they can be. We also believe that they deserve guidance in successfully navigating this complex role. We help parents build community, normalize their experiences, take the shame and fear out of parenting, and have the tools, strategies, and resources they need to address both the challenging and expected aspects of parenting.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
By working with PEN, families are: (1) stronger, more resilient, and prepared when faced with tough times, (2) vocal about the different needs and concerns in their parent community, (3) equipped with solution-focused parenting rather than fear-based reactions, and (4) resourced and prepared to be their child’s best advocate.
School have: (1) a greater capacity to empower parents to envision a better future for their children, (2) support in their goals to create a welcoming environment, strengthen communication between parents and schools, promote a positive school climate, and build social-emotional capacity in children, (3) a team of professionals that provide research-based best practices, expert speakers, and parenting tools for their community, and (4) strengthened efforts to improve parent engagement in marginalized populations.
Businesses and community organizations are left: (1) more aware of the needs and the changing climate in their community, (2) connected to families and other service organizations that support their work, (3)
benefiting from thought leaders who contribute powerful ideas to the community, and (4) becoming a part of a common conversation on youth issues, parent concerns, and paths to positive youth development.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
We are inspired by the strength and courage it takes to raise happy, thriving, successful children, while also taking care of yourself as a parent. We are all developing, learning, and growing throughout this journey we call life. It is always incredibly inspiring when a family gets through a challenging time, and comes out the other side stronger.
We are also inspired by the hundreds of volunteers that donate their time to make our work possible. In addition to the yearly calendar of events that we create as an organization, our parents as leaders in schools (PEN PALS) care deeply about what is happening in their unique school. We support them in addressing the issues they feel are most important.
Our team is small but mighty! As the executive director, they inspire me everyday. Our world needs more people like the people that work and volunteer for this organization. They care deeply about people, and making sure they have what they need to get through the tough times. They touch hearts, and make life more enjoyable every day.
WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
My biggest dream for PEN is that we continue to build capacity, become increasingly more sustainable, and reach as many parents and families as possible, eventually outside of our community. Parenting is not about surviving; it is about enjoying the ride.
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
We rely on the generosity of our donors, sponsors, community partners and parent volunteers to do the work we do. We need the support of our more experienced partners and mentors.
WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Our biggest challenge is capacity. The job description we have to fill is much bigger than the “person-power” we have to accomplish it all. We know with more money we could extend our reach even further!
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
I would advise other leaders to pursue your dreams with reckless abandon. Don’t go at it alone. Seek out mentors and experienced leaders to learn from. Explore people’s passions, and engage those who support your cause. Involve others in solving problems and be patient with yourself.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
The biggest way you can support our organization is by becoming a donor, monthly donor, or sponsor one of our initiatives at parentengagementnetwork.com/donate. We are also always seeking experienced and talented presenters who want to provide a service to our parents. If you live in our community, there is always room to volunteer in your school or with our organization. If you don’t live in our community, and have a skill that would benefit our organization, you’re always welcome.
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