Parents in Mesa County, Colo., are getting a chance to become more involved in their children’s education by sitting down at the dinner table.
Early last fall, School District 51, the 10th largest district in the state, began “Food for Thought,” a program that invites the parents of underachieving students to meet with teachers and school administrators at a community dinner.
Former physical education teacher Rudy Malesich, now the executive director of the central cluster in the 20,000-student district, created the program to help struggling families put food on the table while giving them access to resources that could improve their children’s education.
“Parents want to do everything they can to help their child, but many are unaware of just how to do it,” he said, noting that the only time some children really see and talk to their parents is during the dinner hour.
So district officials decided to utilize that time. Working with the state human services department, which set aside $20,000 this year to sponsor the program, the district will hold 16 dinners at four participating schools.
Parents and students meet at each school and are served dinner. After the meal, parents and teachers sit down one-to-one and review homework kits. The kits offer suggestions on how parents can help children with assignments in mathematics, science, reading, and writing.
Staff members of the state human services department attend the dinners to offer parents help in applying for state assistance programs. Parents also receive $25 supermarket gift certificates to reduce their grocery bills and are encouraged to sign a contract saying they will keep in regular contact with their children’s schools to monitor their progress during the year.
If the program proves successful, the department of human services plans to increase funding and expand it to every school in the district.
A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2002 edition of Education Week