This is part of a series of blogs from Noble campus representatives to give a deeper look at campus life.
In the fall of every school year, we welcome people into the Catamount family at Gary Comer Middle School (GCMS). We welcome not only our students and staff but also the adults in our students’ lives – the parents and guardians who support our scholars and serve as an important part of our community.
At GCMS, we truly believe that it takes a village. The stronger support our young people get from the adults in their lives, the more success they will see in their academics and personal growth. One of the most powerful ways we have seen parents support their students is by being involved at their school’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC).
Ms. Smith, the parent of a current 8th grader, has been part of the GCMS PAC since she joined the Catamount family when her daughter started in 6th grade. When she came to GCMS, she was brand new to Chicago after moving here from North Carolina. She was unfamiliar with the Chicago education landscape and needed a supportive environment for her daughter. She found it at GCMS.
Not only has Ms. Smith been a part of the GCMS PAC, but she has also participated in network-wide advocacy work. Hear more of her story about advocating for her student and her perspective on the importance of parent engagement at school:
GCMS: Why do you think it is important for families in middle school to be involved at the school level?
Ms. Smith: I believe it’s important for parents to be involved at the school level because our kiddos need our help and support, and being involved shows we care. Plus, when we know what’s going on, we can take part in certain decisions that are made. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of the team making the decisions for our babies?
GCMS: What have YOU gained from being part of the school PAC/Noble’s larger family community?
Ms. Smith: I have gained so much support that has truly come in handy when it comes to meeting my daughter’s needs. Not being from Chicago, Noble and the different families I have connected with made me feel like I truly have help. That means a lot for this single mom. I also had the opportunity to go with some other parents to Washington D.C. in May for a press conference they had at the White House, regarding funding for charter schools. That trip lit a fire that I already had in regards to advocacy.
Many Noble parents went to Washington, D.C., this past spring to advocate for their students.
GCMS: What has been a memorable experience being part of the PAC over the last couple of years?
Ms Smith: There are about 3 memorable PAC experiences and I’ve mentioned one above. There is one that involves a rooftop Downtown and the other was an event that came with a massage and it was heavenly. I’ve never had these type of experiences with any other school network. It’s pretty cool being involved. I also enjoyed getting to meet other parents from the school and Noble as a whole. It has really helped me to hear from parents from other high schools in the network, especially since we’ll be selecting high school choices this year.
GCMS: What is a piece of advice you would give a family member who is hesitant about coming to a PAC meeting or Noble Family event?
Ms. Smith: PAC meetings are short, sweet, and straight to the point. There is no element of surprise because PAC will make sure you know what’s going on and will ask for your input when certain decisions are made. The Noble family events are fun, even for this introvert. We don’t bite. I promise. Oh, and we have language interpreters as well.
There are many ways that parents can be involved. Ms. Smith, for example, has spoken at Chicago Board of Education meetings, gone to Washington, D.C. to advocate for her student, served on the network-wide Instructional Design team, and supported recruitment events. We would love to see more of our families involved in whatever way they can be.
If you want to get involved with the Catamount PAC, our meetings are on the last Wednesday of the month. We have one coming up soon on October 26 on Zoom. You can contact Mrs. James (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get the time and Zoom link.
If you are looking to get involved at the Noble Schools network level, you can check out the Noble Family and Community Partner page.