SWOPs Parent Mentor Program is known for creating strong bonds aiming to forge a relationship between parents and students in schools and provides parents with the skills and resources to play an active role in the development of their children’s education. Before the parents can take on those roles however, SWOP believes it is important to first build strong connections between the parents, administration, teachers, students, and community.
Be Strong Families has become internationally known as an innovator in using structured, small group conversations, called Cafés, to facilitate transformation and healing within families, build community, develop peer-to-peer relationships, and engage parents as partners in the programs that serve them. Cafés are physically and emotionally safe spaces where people talk and listen to each other on topics that matter to them, such as the challenges and victories of raising a family, navigating landscapes of inequality, enhancing well-being, or being involved in the recovery process of someone they love. Through individual deep self-reflection and peer-to-peer learning, participants explore their strengths, learn about the Protective Factors, and create strategies from their own wisdom and experiences to strengthen their families. Participants leave Cafés feeling inspired, energized, and excited to put into practice what they have learned.
The Parent Mentor Organizers recently attended a Parent Café Training with Be Strong Families; with the hope of taking these teachings and integrating them into the work they do at SWOP already. Although the specifics of the Cafés could not be delved into as it is a safe space, Maggie Perales, Parent Mentor Program Manager at SWOP shared that she felt as though these Cafés are powerful tools that allow parents and leaders to be vulnerable with one another and establish levels of trust that are not usually attained from normal conversations. “You must be willing to put yourself out there and place your trust into the hands of the other people listening if you want that same trust to be given back to you. It makes you feel vulnerable, but it makes you feel so powerful to share in that togetherness.” Maggie shared, recalling the sessions. The Parent Mentor Program only hopes to continue building relationships through practices like Parent Cafés and Relational Meetings (1-1’s), so leaders can continue to work together on common concerns and bring change to their communities.