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Cornwall Center at Rutgers-Newark Receives More Than $600,000 for the Promise Parent Leadership Academy

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Parents planning the Mind, Body & Soul Community Health Fair sponsored by the Promise Parent Leadership Academy

Research shows that early literacy skills and chronic absenteeism in early grades have significant effects on academic performance in subsequent years. With financial support totaling $600,757 from the Victoria Foundation and The AmeriCorps National Service Network, the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers University–Newark will expand its Promise Parent Leadership Academy in Newark Public Schools, a program that trains parents to support literacy instruction in the early grades and provide targeted supports to families where attendance issues exist. Started with seed funding from the Rutgers University–Newark Office of the Chancellor and piloted at Thirteenth Avenue Elementary/Dr. MLK Jr. School, the program is expanding to Sussex Avenue Renew Elementary School this year. 
 
The funding from AmeriCorps consists of a planning grant and a three-year implementation grant of $151,919 per year. The $70,000 grant from Victoria Foundation will support the expansion into Sussex Avenue Renew Elementary School. Specifically, the funding will support 10 AmeriCorps members at each school who will work with students individually and in small groups and provide attendance supports for targeted students. The members also will support more family and community engagement events. Last year, the parents at Thirteenth Avenue Elementary held a successful community-wide health fair and stimulated more participation in the Parent Teacher Organization. Parents also receive extensive and on-going professional development. These initiatives support two key priorities for the Newark Public Schools -- improving attendance and ensuring that all students read well by third grade.
 
“Involving parents as teachers has positive benefits for them and for students. Parents gain skills and confidence, a different sense of what they are capable of.  They help make the school more a genuine part of the neighborhood. Students like seeing people from the neighborhood in positons of authority; they enjoy working with them. Parents really do create a more positive climate in schools,” commented Charles Payne, director of the Cornwall Center.
 
During the 2019-20 program year, members of the Promise Parent Leadership Academy will provide 25-30 hours per week of literacy support that will include reading texts with students in kindergarten to third grade to improve fluency and comprehension, conducting mini lessons, working on specific reading interventions provided by the teacher, and promoting independent reading.
 
Also during the 2019-20 program year, Promise Parent Leadership Academy members will provide attendance improvement support that will include daily phone calls, parent conferences, attendance improvement meetings, and data entry and analyses. AmeriCorps members will use the parent conferences to identify the barriers that lead to attendance issues and to connect families with community resources that may help to diminish absenteeism.
 
 After working with the parents last year, Simone Rose, principal of Thirteenth Avenue/Dr. MLK Jr. School in Newark, said “Having engaged parents in the classroom has contributed to the growth we have seen in our K-2 Diagnostic Reading Assessment. This year our students scored higher in their end-of-year diagnostic than they have in previous years... In addition to the increase in reading scores, the parents in the program have significantly increased the level of engagement and participation in the school community. They are working daily in the school with children. They participate and lead workshops and initiatives. They have several initiatives that not only impacted the school but also the community at large such as the food pantry, toys for tots, and health fairs. Thirteenth Avenue is grateful that we had the opportunity to launch this program in Newark and to serve as the model for similar programs across the city.”
 
About the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies
Since it was established in 2000, the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies has been a signature component of Rutgers University–Newark’s commitment to be an anchor institution for the metropolitan area. Cornwall’s specific role is bringing the campus’s intellectual talent and other resources to bear on the challenges of revitalizing Newark and similar communities in the region and state. To this end, the center sponsors research projects, publications, conferences, symposia, seminars, workshops, and public forums, and incubates projects translating research into effective practice. In all its work, Cornwall is especially concerned with supporting the most vulnerable urban populations.
 
The center is named after the late Joseph C. Cornwall, a widely respected civic leader and the founding chair of the Fund for New Jersey. Cornwall devoted much of his career to advancing the welfare and quality of life of New Jersey’s citizens. To recognize his civic and philanthropic accomplishments, the Fund for New Jersey established an endowment to support the Cornwall Center and bolster its mission to improve the lives of people who live in New Jersey’s cities.
 
About Rutgers University–Newark 
Rutgers University–Newark (RU-N) is a diverse, urban, public research university that is an anchor institution in New Jersey’s cultural capital. More than 13,000 students are currently enrolled at its 38-acre campus in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, University College, the Graduate School, Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, the Rutgers Law School–Newark, the School of Criminal Justice, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration. RU-N is exceptionally well positioned to fulfill higher education’s promise as an engine of discovery, innovation, and social mobility. It has a remarkable legacy of producing high-impact scholarship that is connected to the great questions and challenges of the world. It has the right mix of disciplines and interdisciplinary centers and institutes to take on those questions and challenges. It is in and of a city and region where its work on local challenges undertaken with partners from many sectors resonates powerfully throughout our urbanizing world. Most importantly, RU-N brings an incredible diversity of people to this work—students, faculty, staff, and community partners—making it more innovative, more creative, more engaging, and more relevant for our time and the times ahead. For more information, visit www.rutgers.edu.