Sponsored by Guilford County Schools; written by Haley Miller, Guilford Parent Academy Coordinator

In February 2009, one month after Guilford County Schools Superintendent Mo Green launched his strategic plan, I received an e-mail from my boss. I had been named the project team leader for one of the major initiatives outlined in the plan—start a parent university.

Of course, I was a little stressed out first. My husband and I were hoping to start a family of our own soon, and this was a major project that would require a lot of attention, including extra hours beyond the traditional workday.

However, I got right to work. We began to hear from parents across Guilford County. A parent university was needed. Parents need to know about resources available to them, and navigating such a large school district can be difficult. They need workshops and seminars on various topics and they need information about how they can help their children succeed. We formed a project team with parents and a diverse team of educators and community members, and started researching what parents in Guilford County need. We started discussing what kinds of programs would be offered, and even decided that the word “university” may be intimidating to parents and changed the name to Guilford Parent Academy.

As I worked countless hours on this project, I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling in the back of my mind. Yes, this is a great concept, but will parents actually use this? Don’t most parents have family members and friends they can turn to with questions? With the internet being readily available to most people, can’t everyone get information from there?

Then, on May 19, 2010, my beautiful son was born. After suffering through two miscarriages, my husband and I felt blessed beyond measure. He was perfect! Two days later, when my son was a mere two days old, those wonderful nurses at the Women’s Hospital told me it was time to go home. And they weren’t going with me. Whaaaaatt???? What if he stops latching correctly? What if his jaundice gets worse? What if his poop turns green? These were the questions that raced through my mind on our first family trip home.

I had an epiphany that day. Parenting is hard! And scary. You can read all the books and call your mom hysterically in the middle of the night, but you still end up having more questions than answers. There isn’t always one clear-cut solution to problems. Instead, you have to figure out what works best for your child. Over the past nine months, I’ve also learned that I am my son’s voice. No one loves him and cares about him more than me and my husband, and we are ultimately responsible for making sure he grows up into a responsible adult.

A Parent Academy is needed. As much as we all love our mothers, aunts, uncles and best friends and their well-intentioned advice, sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary to get information from a professional. Guilford Parent Academy provides information and training on a variety of topics for parents, grandparents and family members caring for children and young people in Guilford County. Parents can rest assured that Guilford Parent Academy programs are credible and worthwhile, and have been designed to support parents from all demographics and backgrounds.

The best part—thanks to our generous partners, it’s all free.

Guilford Parent Academy has three major components:

1. Learning Experiences/Events. Guilford Parent Academy offers new programs for parents and connects them to programs that currently exist in the community.
2. Guilford Parent Academy is a one-stop shop for parents to learn how they can support their children. The websitehouses and organizes a myriad of information in an easily accessible way.
3. Connections to Support and Resources Creating access to parent resources and making it easier for parents to navigate the school system are of paramount importance to Guilford Parent Academy. Guilford Parent Academy is a point of connection for parents to various resources offered by partnering organizations throughout Guilford County.

All components of Parent Academy focus on four major themes:

1. Tools for Parents. Information and experiences for parents to help children feel good about themselves as they grow and learn successfully.
2. School Success. Empowering parents to support children to reach for 21st Century opportunities and to meet 21st Century challenges.
3. Health and Wellbeing. Information and activities to support healthy family lifestyles.
4. Personal Growth and Development. Opportunities for personal growth for parents to enrich their lives and their children’s lives.

To learn more and join Parent Academy, contact us at parentacademy@gcsnc.com or call 336-279-4924. You can also visit us online at http://www.gcsnc.com/parentacademy.