Aug. 24, 2010/Lawton Parents Showcase Oklahoma GEAR UP Leadership Program at National Conference
Karen Lewis and Linda Flaig, members of the Lawton MacArthur Middle School Parent Leadership Team, were one of six teams selected from across the country to present their accomplishments and experiences with other parent leaders during the 2010 National Council for Community and Education Partnerships/GEAR UP Annual Conference recently held in Washington D.C. The conference hosted more than 2,400 parent leaders and state higher education advocates as they came together to promote positive change in students, schools and communities with the hope of making college possible for all students across the nation.
Keeping with the conference theme, “GEARing UP for Excellence: Linking Programs, Practice and Policy,” Lewis and Flaig provided an overview of the innovative ways they have strengthened parent-school-community partnerships at Lawton MacArthur Middle School. Their presentation focused on components of the Oklahoma GEAR UP Parent Leadership Academy, the program that trained Lewis and Flaig to become more effective advocates for their school.
"The Parent Leadership Academy gave us the needed confidence and skills to assist our students, educators and community,” Lewis said. “We felt honored to have been chosen to present at the national GEAR UP conference and to have the opportunity to encourage parents to take an active role in working with their children’s educators to ensure educational success. It is always great to hear that we (parents) can truly make a difference in the lives of all students.”
During their presentation, Lewis and Flaig provided an overview of their local parent project, “Explore to Soar,” a four-month, before-school tutoring program offered to students wanting extra assistance with math. The team organized teacher volunteers to tutor and mentor students outside of the classroom and used grant monies for supplies and materials. More than 60 students participated in the tutoring program, resulting in a 4 percent increase on standardized tests schoolwide. Because of the success of the parent-led program, the school is continuing to offer additional math assistance on Saturdays for a minimal fee.
"The goal for our presentation was for parents to learn how critical their involvement is to student success,” said Flaig. “Higher education promotes a more successful, self-confident individual and can lead to unlimited opportunities.”
"We are proud of Karen and Linda for sharing their project’s success on a national stage,” said State Regent Bill W. Burgess. “The Explore to Soar project is a prime example of how teachers, administrators and families can work collaboratively to increase overall academic achievement and lead our students into a brighter future.”
For the upcoming school year, Flaig and Lewis hope to recruit more parents and plan to discuss strategies to advance the program with school administration.
"We are very fortunate to have parents like Linda and Karen who are willing to take a hands-on approach to enhancing student achievement,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “They did a tremendous job of representing Oklahoma at the national level. We appreciate their continued dedication to students and their commitment to inspiring parents to become involved.”
For more information about the GEAR UP Parent Leadership Academy, visit www.okhighered.org/gearup/parents/pla.shtml or call (800) 858-1840.
GEAR UP, a federally funded program administered by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, helps prepare middle and high school students for college through academic preparation programs and scholarships for students, professional development activities for educators and college access information for students and parents.
The U.S. Department of Education awarded Oklahoma with state GEAR UP grants totaling $20.5 million in August 1999 and $20.6 million in August 2005. The grants have been matched by more than $47 million from state and partner resources. With the addition of the 2005 multi-year, federal grant, Oklahoma’s GEAR UP program will ultimately receive more than $45.6 million in federal funds by 2011. GEAR UP receives 49 percent of total funding from the federal government and 51 percent from other organizations.