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What does National African American Parent Involvement Day mean in Urbana schools?

Yankee Ridge parent Briesha Jackson sings "Lift Every Voice and Sing" with her daughters during National African American Parent Involvement Day on Feb. 13, 2023.

URBANA — Monday was National African American Parent Involvement Day.

In Urbana, parents ate breakfast and lunch with their children, visited their classrooms and attended assemblies focused on mental health and Black History Month.

For Briesha Jackson, the day is an intergenerational commitment.

“When I was younger, my parents were very involved with National African American Parent Involvement Day. I always wanted to make sure when I had kids myself that I was also involved,” Jackson said.

Jackson has four daughters at Yankee Ridge Elementary School. She sat at a table with all four in the school’s library. As they listened to a guest speaker, her youngest climbed into her lap.

Afterwards, her oldest explained Jackson’s presence makes her feel more comfortable at school.

“When I’m here, I feel kind of nervous. But when she’s here, it makes me feel much better,” said third grader Zaniyah Jackson.

NAAPID was founded in 1995 after the Million Man March to empower Black families to get involved in schools and advocate for their children.

Emily Hays/Illinois Public Media

Visitors from the broader community also visited Urbana classrooms.

Champaign Community Coalition facilitator Tracy Parsons gathered a group of Black male leaders to read to Yankee Ridge students for NAAPID.

“Not too many schools have African American men in the buildings themselves. There are schools where there are no African American men,” Parsons said.

“For kids to see someone who looks like them, especially a male figure, is really critical.”

The readings happen annually but were on pause for the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic, when school visits were limited.

Parsons said the pause makes this year’s readings particularly important.

“I am really concerned about the loss of classroom time. We have to accelerate our involvement and our support,” Parsons said.

Emily Hays is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter@amihatt.

Picture of Emily Hays

Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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