Parent Empowerment in Action: Seaton Elementary School’s Multicultural Night

Students from many backgrounds learn and grow together at Seaton Elementary School, in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest DC. The student body is racially diverse and includes a broad range of cultures. Economically, most students are members of working and low-income families. Seaton parents find strength in their diversity and it enriches the school.

In years past, Seaton Elementary hosted an annual Multicultural Day to celebrate their students’ different ethnicities and serve as an opportunity for students to learn about different countries. Last year, parents applied for a $1,000 matching grant through the Committee’s Parent Empowerment Program (PEP) to fund a Multicultural Night so parents could participate too.

Students from Seaton Elementary walk in the Parade of NationsThe Committee believes that in order to support each student’s civil right to a high-quality education throughout the city, we must support parents and students to express their power. Parent engagement embedded in the school setting can change the outcome and direction of many students who are typically marginalized. Creating opportunities for parents to have a meaningful voice to advocates for children can influence the academic outcome for a school and maintain a more civically engaged community.

One way to begin to address inequities among DC schools and bring parents together is through fundraising. With the support of the Committee’s Parent Coordinator, Jhonna Turner, Seaton parents learned new and more effective fundraising strategies. Before the PEP grant they were only able to raise money in small amounts—after, they raised a total of $3,200 for Multicultural Night!

That night, Seaton’s large, three-story building was buzzing, filled to capacity with parents, students, and teachers flowing in and out of the classrooms. Music bounced from the walls, food was everywhere, costumes were abundant, and the night was colorful. Families learned about each region’s food, culture, and natural resources. Children laughed, asked questions, and explored. Even community members walked in from the street to see the friendly excitement. Community members also turned classrooms into labs and discussed their cultural expertise.

Parents and children from all over were united, celebrating together. Seaton had 90% of their parents participate in the event, and 98% of children and parents that attended thought it was one of the best events the school had. Thanks to the parent organizers, the evening was an overwhelming success, and one step towards uniting parents who are too often shut out of their school communities.

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