Jhonna Turner, the Committee’s Parent Engagement Program Coordinator, spends her days working with parents to support their efforts to fight for justice and education equity for all District students. The Parent Empowerment Program (PEP) is part of the Committee’s focus on creating an equal opportunity for an education for all students. We believe that supporting each student’s civil right to a high-quality education throughout the city means helping parents and students exercise their power.
Where did your passion for working with parents come from?
I try my best to have a razor sharp focus on whatever is right, true, noble, and good in mankind. When I first started working with parents as an education advocate for homeless children, I noticed that sometimes people just need to be encouraged. Someone saying, “you’re doing okay,” is comforting and reassuring, and can go far. My colleague was t alking to a parent one day and the situation was messy, very messy. And after much back and forth, my colleague finally said: “But you love your child! I know you love your child.” And after that, the conversation shifted. The parent physically appeared less stressed, her tone was soft and she said: “I do.” That moment was monumental for me in my career. And that’s when I started to pay attention to the parent. Being a humble and encouraging voice, with a mind for justice, I think lends well to this thing called “hope.” And I have hope for parents, especially those who are underrepresented and in many ways marginalized. I think providing space for parents to see their own potential will shift the way they think about their child’s potential.
Can you tell us about a family that’s been a part of the Parent Empowerment Program?
There is one father who clearly loves his son. He fights for him. He advocates for his needs and has big desires for his little guy. He’s also an advocate for his community. He is a graduate of DCPS, went to school in Ward 8 and currently lives in Ward 8. He is admirable. There is another father who has a desire for children to see people of color in STEM professions to help motivate them in pursuing STEM-related careers. That’s a small sample of what I can tell you about our families. Hearing their hopes and dreams for their child and others, and finding ways to make it happen…by empowering them…is being part of the Parent Empowerment Program.
What do you like to do around DC when you don’t have your parent-engagement hat on?
There’s plenty to do in and around the city, it’s really cool. However, I enjoy spending time with friends, families I’m close to, doing church-stuff and serving others. As much as I LOVE the city, I love building relationships more; and I love the idea of possibly combining the two.