North Harlem Elementary School has never had a shortage of involved parents, but now the volunteers have a home away from home.
About 30 people were on hand recently for the grand opening and ribbon-cutting of the school's new Parent Resource Center.
"Our goal was just to provide a place for the parents to come into the school, a place they could call their own," said Assistant Principal Malinda Graham, who has been working to develop the center since May.
The Parent Center, which occupies a former first-grade classroom, is designed to be an on-campus resource center for the Harlem community. Working with AmeriCorps volunteers, the school has created a space for parents to use a computer, read materials about parenting and take parent classes.
The Parent Center also includes homework helper ideas, workbook materials and supplies. In addition, teachers have mailboxes in the center where they can leave a list of tasks that parents can perform to help them.
Bonnie Vest, an AmeriCorps volunteer who has a fifth-grader at the school, said these assignments will allow parents to help with jobs such as cutting things out so teachers can focus on teaching.
"My main goal is to find volunteers," she said.
In the past, she said, parents who helped pupils during the school day took them to the library.
However, Vest added, the Parent Center will give them a quiet, distraction-free place to work.
The first workshop is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Oct. 29.
Hannah Matthews, the school counselor, and Belinda Lee-Scott, a school social worker, will talk to parents about the services they provide, community resources and child supervision rules.
"I've been wanting to do parent workshops for a long time, but we haven't had any way to organize it," Matthews said.
In another workshop, first-grade teachers will show parents how to help their children with phonics. Second-grade teachers also will conduct a workshop to "teach parents how to help kids with homework - without doing it," Graham said.
Karin Helton, who has a first-grader at the school, was excited about the new center.
"I love it. I'm a very involved parent. So the more information, the better for me," she said.
She might even gain some knowledge from the Parent Center that she had not anticipated. School officials asked Helton to use the space to help a fifth-grader make a volcano for a class project.
"I've never done it before, but I said, 'We'll figure it out together,'" she said.
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