Parent University program holds six courses to support student guardians

UPA Founder Jackie Guevara and math teacher Jaz Dhillon created Parent University in 2011. Initially called Parent Workshops until a name change in 2017, it was advertised broadly to families until they felt that the parents of students who were struggling the most were not attending. From then on, Parent University specifically reached out to parents and guardians with students failing three or more classes. In 2021, Director of Community Development Laura Gordon Reska took over the program and revamped it to focus on educating guardians about all aspects of mental health.

“We know that student success at UPA could not be possible without the support of parents and caregivers,” Reska said. “And so it’s a priority for us to support the homes so that the students can be successful at school.”

Parent University held its first Zoom session on Oct. 19, 2021 with breakout rooms for parents to ask administrators, teachers, PTSO President Julie Wong and other staff members about resources, opportunities and programs at UPA. An organization called Parent Guidance is leading the rest of the meetings. Reska discovered the organization

On March 23 Jennifer Rojas led a Parent University webinar on “Emotional Regulation Part 1: Recognizing What’s Wrong.” It covered why people have emotions, why emotions being too high or too low can be harmful, tools to understand students emotions and the impact of inward emotions on mental health. (Photo by Haylie Yee.)

at a virtual wellness summit in September 2021. They offer resources such as coaching, therapists and courses on mental health for parents from professionals and will host sessions once a month throughout the school year.

Reska intentionally chose six courses—”Your Child’s Anxiety,” “Social Media: Protecting your Child,” “Building Your Child’s Confidence,” “Emotional Regulation: Part 1 Recognizing What’s Wrong,” “Emotional Regulation: Part 2 Interrupting Negative Emotions” and “Helping Your Child Succeed – Parenting Styles Matter”—as she believed they would aid parents the most from what Parent Guidance offered. Parents and guardians can register for sessions through a link in UPA’s weekly announcements and on the UPA website. As of March, the highest number of engagement has been 140 registered for and 51 attending a meeting. For those who did not show up live, a recording of the webinar was sent out.

“If you’re a parent of a first-time 14 year old, you don’t necessarily know what is average behavior, average concerns, average successes,” Reska said. “So Parent University helps to bring community members together so that they can see that they’re not alone in certain situations.”