April 13, 2018 --
The Heights Middle School Conference Night on March 27 took a break from its usual set-up by creating a space where families connected, gathered targeted resources, and enjoyed light refreshments. The HMS Cafeteria was transformed into the “Family Room,” a space designated to help build stronger relationships with and among HMS parents and guardians.
“The original idea was to have an information fair that pulled together resources and information that impact today’s youth and families,” said Josephine Shelton-Townes, LISW-S, Social Worker. “Collaboration with school psychologist Michelle Cecconi and her interns who were already planning an event for the evening led to everything coming together!”
The concept of the Family Room is centered on a “make it what you need” flexibility with the foundation of offering families a place to gather. The space is meant to provide relevant school-based resources and a chance to relax and connect with the school-family community. Sprinkling it with a few fun, hands-on activities helps to build a festive, warm environment.
“The idea is that a Family Room can be built onto any and every district event including concerts, athletics, curriculum and conference nights,” said Lisa Hunt, Family Engagement Specialist. “Some of our school-based events draw higher numbers than others and can often be a missed opportunity to network, or honor families giving of their time by providing them a different way to be involved.
“Parents want to build relationships with other parents, talk with their building principals, and better understand what resources are available to support their students. Currently there is no consistent way to ensure this is happening. Adopting the Family Room concept in our schools will help overcome several barriers, including decreasing the need to have an additional night out away from home or family routines.”
The Family Room saw nearly 100 families sign in and participate. Staff led activities, including a chance to sit in a Restorative Justice circle, a practice being explored in our schools to help conflict resolution and minimize harmful words or deeds.
HMS PTA helped make sure visitors were welcomed and received a “Passport” with targeted activities, such as meet three new parents and share something about themselves and their child. The Passport also directed families to walk the resource tables, check their Infinite Campus status and complete the event’s feedback survey. On the Passport, families were asked to visit the photo booth and take a picture with the T.J. the tiger mascot and post it on social media using the hashtag #TigerNation (see photo gallery
). The completed Passports were a way to earn spirit gear from the Heights Schools Foundation table. Every family that signed in was also entered into the hourly drawings for giveaways.
In addition to the Foundation, organizations such as Heights Libraries and Open Doors Academy were present to provide families with targeted resources including college prep, tutoring, and counseling services. According to one parent’s feedback, “the information was pertinent and there was easy access to it, in a relaxing atmosphere with no high pressure presentations.” Of those surveyed, 95% of respondents rated the Family Room as excellent. Other comments included: “much needed! My family & I enjoyed the Family Room!” “Good job! We need more of this!”