Union High School students had an opportunity to not only break down barriers in parent-student communication but also feed a need to be connected. The Fall Parent Night was sponsored by the school’s Peer Group Connection, or PGC, which started at 6 p.m. in the auditorium. The students participated in a skit at the outset of the lineup of events and also were on hand to help parents find their way around the school.
The program of events stated that the PGC “is a program that was designed to provide freshman with a welcoming environment with the transition into high school.” The parents and students were all assigned randomly to groups so as to separate the parents from the children to allow for a better flow of communication, organizers stated. The groups split off into different classrooms to set the students and parents up for a discussion on a variety of topics such as substance abuse and communication in the home.
While in the classroom each person identified who they were and the groups, who were lead by PGC members, embarked on a discussion of subjects, hypothetical events, as well as personal concerns. Students went first, and sat in the middle of the floor to answer questions provided by the proctors for the classes. The circled up fishbowl discussion, as the program entitled it, gave the students a chance to voice their opinions on a variety of topics while the parents in the classroom had to listen and show respect for their responses. The roles were later reversed, allowing for the parents a chance to enlighten the students on their feelings on the subjects.
One example of a question that was asked was how can a parent impact student substance abuse. The students in the group provided answers that included showing the student the harsh effects of what the substance can do to the body. For example, smoking causing lung cancer. Other questions included asking the students what was necessary for parents and students to have open, honest communication. The students said it was important for them to feel that they were in a welcoming environment for discussions, such as what would be found around a dinner table.
The goal of the PGC is to motivate students to “become involved in school activities, improve academic performance, and make a life long commitment to learning,” organizers stressed.
The students that were involved in the event felt that the program was making a positive impact on the school. One such student was Candice Taylor, who created a skit which was performed at the beginning of the parent night.
“I wanted this skit to be as realistic as possible,” said Taylor. She wrote the skit which was about a bully whose insecurities ended up costing him his girlfriend and forcing him to drop out of school. Taylor was among the students attired in a SWAG T-shirt and involved in working the event. SWAG stands for Share Our Knowledge and Wisdom, Assist and Guide freshman which also is for the class of 2017.
Heather Knowles, who was one of the advisers involved in orchestrating the event, said this was her third year working on this project. She said the questions that were provided for the students and parents come from a curriculum hey have prepared before the event.
“We hope to get more student, parents, and faculty involvement every year,” she said. The program has been going on for a few years now at the school and the students seem to benefit from it, she said. The students that are involved in these leadership programs have to go through an interview process. The class is an elective, and the juniors and Seniors are chosen because of their desire to make a positive impact on the school.
The event Monday had the involvement of the Key Club, the PGC leaders, as well as advisers such as Raymond Hayes, Gilberto Campos, Knowles, and Jessica Register.
Students and their parents were served up BBQ sandwiches and chicken strip sandwiches after the events allowing them more time to interact and process the revelations of the evening.
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org