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Group teaches parents how to get school help

When James Robinson Jr. discovered his son, Jerold, had been classified as a slow learner in school, he grew concerned. But four years later, he got angry.

"That frustrates me because something can be done," said Robinson. "We should have a process to get kids from one side of the road to the other."

So two months ago, Robinson, director of the James B. Sanderlin Family Center, formed a focus group to teach parents how to become more involved in their child's education.

"Parental involvement is the key," he said.

During the monthly meetings, parents or adults who are raising school-age children will brainstorm about changing patterns in their child's learning process.

They will learn skills on how to address and follow up with school boards and find out about free services that can help students and their parents. Robinson encourages them to come with questions.

Designed as an outreach program, the meetings involve volunteers from Pinellas County schools who talk with parents about their concerns, offer suggestions and then report back to the school system.

"Many African-American parents may not feel comfortable going into the schools," said Dianne Speights, a community involvement coordinator for Pinellas County schools.

"So if we can give them more information to help them feel more comfortable, it can help impact their child at school."

Beginning in July, the center will offer a three-day mini-math camp using games, puzzles and computers to teach high school students how to have fun with numbers. Also offered is a tutoring program and an after-school homework lab.

"We have to start with the village concept," said Velma Locket, a social worker with Pinellas schools and a volunteer at the center. "Embrace our youth to empower them to help them go on."

At the first meeting in April, the center held a question-and-answer session. Free resource guides, listing resources for children's education and services in adult education were distributed. The hope is that if parents get excited about learning, they can inspire their children.

"It's very important to take the time to teach our children that education is important," Locket said.

IF YOU GO

The next community parent meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at the James B. Sanderlin Family Center at 2335 22nd Ave. S. Call 321-9444 for information.

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