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Celebrating Community Wins: A Spotlight on PUSD’s African-American Parent Council

We’re solutions-oriented. We are parents at the table willing to work for a solution for our students. These are systems that need to change: let’s pull up our sleeves and figure out how to make it happen. And now, we’re thinking about how to do that virtually. <span class="su-quote-cite">Nia Bailey, District AAPC Chair</span>

The African-American Parent Council (AAPC) has been a Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) school board chartered parent group since 2010. The council works to offer solutions to close the achievement and opportunity gap between students and support students’ academic achievement. Fueled purely by their sheer passion, the AAPC has launched several exciting initiatives in the past few years, which, while paused by the onset of the pandemic in 2020, they are hoping to relaunch virtually this year.

One of the AAPC’s most beloved initiatives is the Black History Living Museum, which usually takes place in May. A parent introduced the idea of a research project for students, who would research an African-American person, either past or present, and create a presentation board on that individual. On the day of the museum, students dress up as their chosen person, and come to life, introducing their research as if they were that person. All students from third to fifth grade participate, and judges decide on first, second, and third place winners. The winner even receives a trophy, which is displayed at their school for the year. A representative for California Senator Anthony Portantino was a previous judge, and the Senator has helped fund the Black History Living Museum this year, which returns virtually this coming May 13, 2021 at 6:30 pm.

Another popular program stemmed from the parents of the AAPC creating their own solution for the noticeable discrepancy in African-American students’ SBAC scores in math. A former PUSD UTP president and middle school math teacher explained to the Council that the fundamental math skills that students learn at the young ages of 6-8 years old can determine their entire life’s path in relation to math. Those missing fundamentals can snowball, turning early math achievement issues into a larger hurdle that could potentially affect future college acceptance. After spending months researching and developing, the AAPC assembled a network of volunteers and community partners, like Reading Partners Los Angeles and Dr. Donald Grant from Pacific Oaks College, to create a math reinforcement program for first- and second-graders. Nearly a hundred people were interested in volunteering for this program, called Math Power Hour (MPH), and ultimately, 36 enthusiastic volunteers were trained. Relationships were built between tutors, teachers and students in a beautiful process all aimed at helping students master math fundamentals and feel more confident in their math abilities. The Council decided to focus the launch of MPH on providing volunteers on a weekly basis to six schools where SBAC scores were below average for students of color. MPH offers tutoring to all students referred by teachers and parents, not just African-American students.

“We brought the district, the teachers, and the parents together around something we could all agree on, and push forward and accomplish something tangible. We wanted to make this available for every student…We all need to work together to help our students.”—Nathaniel Bradley, AAPC Vice-Chair

First offered in the Fall of the 2019-2020 school year, Math Power Hour ran from October 2019-March 2020 but was cut short due to the pandemic. In collaboration with UTP and PUSD Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development department, the AAPC have been working since to determine how they could transition Math Power Hour to a remote setting, and are hoping to bring the program back Summer 2021 to help students with any learning gaps that may have occurred over the past year of remote learning. They have further goals for the program, hoping to bring it to more schools and students, and eventually add a literacy component, too.

More recently, the AAPC successfully applied for and received a grant from the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation to pay for students’ STEM tutoring through Caltech’s Rise program as well as cover college application fees and even college security deposit costs for African-American students. The heart of the AAPC’s goals is to pursue an equitable school district: to speak up, voice needs, and share their stories. They’ve built a community for everyone—parents from every school, whether their child is African-American or not, community members, teachers, and principals.

Despite the mayhem of the outside world, the AAPC Executive team has met throughout the pandemic, still bringing new ideas and excellent speakers to each meeting. And while there is great focus on figuring out how to create a better experience for every student, the meetings aren’t all solemn. Current District AAPC Chair Nia Bailey says: “As much as we want to push on policy, it’s also fun! We celebrate! We have Thanksgiving potlucks, we laugh, we smile, we joke around. That’s important to us.”

Thank you to the AAPC for your hard work supporting all our incredible PUSD students! If you are interested in finding out more about upcoming events, the PUSD AAPC website is here: https://aapcpusd.com/