“You just have to be passionate about it.”
At The Right Brain Initiative, we are very excited to work with a growing group of Parent Advocates , who act as a link between our organization and the parents and neighborhoods of the schools we serve. To celebrate the work our fabulous parent advocates are doing, we are beginning a series of profiles to show you all ways in which these advocates make a big difference for The Right Brain Initiative!
For our first profile, I had the pleasure of talking with Kim Strelchun, a woman whose two children have attended Right Brain partner school Jackson Elementary in Hillsboro, and whose work has become a model for the entire parent advocate program. A former volunteer with Stand for Children, we are also proud to say that Kim is now an elected member of the Hillsboro School Board.
What First Got Her Involved
Kim has always had a passion for arts education. After putting her children through an arts- and project-based Kindergarten, she felt that these elements should be more present in public schools and jumped onboard with The Right Brain Initiative when her district was selected as a partner in 2009. The desire to “share the mission of Right Brain outside our four walls” led Kim to embrace the process of “making the children’s learning visible, not just to the children, but to the parents, the teacher, and the artist.”
Kim’s Work as an Advocate
The primary role of Right Brain Parent Advocates is to facilitate communications and engagement around the work of Right Brain in their school. But in her work as an advocate, Kim has constantly gone above and beyond this call of duty. In order to show families and the community what kids in Right Brain schools are doing, Kim began documenting the work being done in the classroom so that it could be displayed around the school. She created in-depth descriptions of the work done in the residencies, which were sent home to the families of the children involved. She also served as a member of her school’s Right Brain planning team. And as all Parent Advocates are encouraged to, Kim attended our professional development several years in a row, working alongside the teachers and principals of Right Brain schools to learn strategies to seamlessly integrate the arts with other subjects.
What She Finds Most Memorable
The most rewarding part of being an advocate, for Kim, is “making the children’s learning visible, not just to the children, but to the parents, the teacher, and the artist.” She loves participating in Right Brain’s process of documenting residencies because she gets to see first-hand how successful students feel when they are shown that they are heard and valued during Right Brain programming.
How Right Brain Shaped Her Kids
Both of Kim’s children, now 10th and 7th grade students, have been involved in Right Brain schools for multiple years. She describes her kids as “confident learners” who are not afraid to advocate for themselves and say “let me show you the ways I know something.” Though already interested in creative pursuits, Kim appreciates that “Right Brain exposed them to other media and different types of expression,” in a way that was “broader than just getting better at one fine art” because of our unique integration with the academic process.
Changing Parent to Child Interaction
“Being an advocate, I built a relationship with the teachers and artists, which gave me a deeper understanding of the work that was being done and allowed me to go deeper in the discussions with my kids, “ said Kim, when I asked her how her advocacy role has affected the ways she can interact with her children as students. As an advocate, “you can learn side-by-side with them,” Kim told me. With a daughter who is a burgeoning artist, she feels that being involved with Right Brain has allowed her “to go on that journey with her.”
Advice from the Experts
Initially, being a parent advocate was a big step out of Kim’s comfort zone, but she is quick to express the value that can be found in these new experiences. When asked what advice she wishes she would have received when first starting as an advocate, without hesitation, Kim told me: “Don’t be afraid to just jump in; you don’t have to be an expert in art, you just have to be passionate about it.”
Are you a parent at a Right Brain partner school interested in being a part of our Parent Advocate program? Please contact Rebecca Burrell, Outreach Specialist, at 503.823.2965 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Deal is Right Brain’s Outreach Apprentice for Sprinter ’13.