BROOKSVILLE — Parents gathered around tables in the Hernando High School cafeteria on Oct. 20, eating pizza. Some were with their children. They were all enjoying a complimentary dinner before the Hernando County School District's 2011 Parent Institute.
Guillermo Gonzalez, 25, and his wife, Sonia Cruz-Mendoza, 30, were there with their children, Yarely Mateo-Cruz, 3, and Alex Mateo-Cruz, 2. Cruz-Mendoza said she was seeking information about how best to help her children. She and her husband were interested in visiting the session called "ESOL Parent Leadership Council," a workshop for parents and guardians of English language learners.
Audrey Brookfield, 46, and her husband, Rich Brookfield, 50, were there for a special gathering put on by the exceptional student education program. They have a son with Down syndrome, Jesse, 14, who attends Central High School. Audrey Brookfield said they were there "to find out about his future and what they have to offer." They were interested in learning about transition and guardianship.
Amy Southall, 45, and her husband, Paul Southall, 46, had come to the event with their sons, Ben, 10, and Stephen, 8. The boys are in the fifth and third grades at Moton Elementary School. Their mom and dad said they were "looking for opportunities to become better parents."
They intended to go to the "Helping Kids Face Today's World — Who Says Parenting Can't Be Fun?" session.
Ronteryl Black, 32, and her daughter, Iesha Fogle, 11, a Parrott Middle School sixth-grader, have been attending the event for years.
"I think I've only missed one of these since 2005," Black said. "I enjoy the workshops. I like to know what's going on. I like to be on top of things."
She said she can receive information about the schools and school system as well as information about parenting.
"Help is always great," she said.
Danny and Kiauna Browdy have a blended family of 10 children, including two sets of twins. Eight of them sat around a big table munching pizza. All the children are boys, except one of the 9-month-old twins, DiLeon and Karim, who were not at the event.
The oldest, Kaleb, 14, is a Hernando High freshman. The next four, third-grader Danny, 9; second-grade twins Khari and Daryl, 7, and kindergartener Kalil, 5, attend Brooksville Elementary. The other three — Bryce, 5; Braxton, 2; and Heaven, 1 — live with their mother in Pasco County, but were at the event.
"I try to just stay involved with all kinds of school activities," Kiauna Browdy said. She is interested in taking the children to school events whenever she can.
Besides the dinner, community exhibitors and breakout sessions, the families also heard a keynote speaker, educator Angela Walker.
Ivette Mendoza, the school district's coordinator of parental involvement, organized the institute, which had a pirate theme this year.
The district wanted to provide parents with training to help their children be more successful, she said, and the exhibitors were there to let parents know what community resources are available to them.
It's just a real fun evening," Mendoza said. "We love doing it, and parents love coming."