A program launching this summer aims to transform New Jersey parents into stronger advocates for their children's education.

Following seven virtual sessions, participants will ideally be more informed about the policy making processes within their local districts, the best ways to have their voices heard, and ways to access school data that are designed to illustrate the quality of education in the Garden State.

JerseyCAN, a nonprofit devoted to advocating for high-quality schools for all New Jersey students, says parents have become more involved in their children's public education as a result of COVID shutdowns and restrictions. The group hopes to build on that momentum with their free Parent Champions for Strong Schools program.

"Whether it be their direct connection with a teacher, greater participation in school-board meetings, or asking needed questions on the local level, this kind of activism and self-empowerment has been an inspiration," said Janellen Duffy, senior policy advisor for the Cranford-based organization. "Parents and families are the best advocates for their children, and we hope to use this training to support parents who want to strengthen their voice and improve the quality of education in their communities and the state."

Not just any parent, grandparent or guardian can access the program. One must prove their passion for improving education in the Garden State. The application process includes a virtual meeting with the JerseyCAN team.

"For someone who wants to be part of this, we're really just asking that you commit to coming to all of the training sessions," Duffy said.

While the program will likely help parents get their voices heard on the local level, there's also a need for parents' input in state-level conversations, Duffy added.

Sessions will last for about 90 minutes and will be held over Zoom, once a week on Wednesdays from July 13 through Aug. 24. The session includes 30 minutes of Q&A.

Applications must be submitted by June 13. Visit this page to be considered for Parent Champions for Strong Schools.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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