“It’s imperative that families of color walk very closely with their children through this journey simply because of the disparities: economic, racial, and perhaps even cultural. It’s only as beneficial as the journey the family takes together.â€
She says it takes a certain mindset and an understanding that developing children into 21st-century global leaders takes family support. “You have to walk with your children in these spaces.â€
Parker Collins says she enjoys being involved and feels like a partner to the school who can be on campus at any time. She currently serves as a middle school parents association representative and was recently asked to be on the head of school council.
The e-guide includes questions to help families wrestle with the decision of whether or not an independent school is the right choice for their child, such as, what do you think of your own educational experience? What do you want for your children? What do you expect from them? How do you feel about increased academic rigor and having access to greater resources? Are you willing to navigate and put into perspective the racial and economic disparities in private, independent education? How do you feel when you’re the “only oneâ€?
Apply, and see what happens.
The cost challenge is real, Parker Collins says, and notes tuition at these schools rivals college expenses. This often ends the conversation for black families, but Parker Collins doesn’t see it as insurmountable. “I tell families to apply and see what happens,â€ sounding a bit like a fairy godmother.
“Families are coming from either a place of abundance or a place of sacrifice,â€ she says. But schools themselves can provide funding, especially to admit an exceptional student.
“We wouldn’t have Wes Moore and Deval Patrick now, if we didn’t have students from lots of different backgrounds, including socioeconomic backgrounds,â€ Parker Collins says. “Parents making as much as $250,000 a year receive financial support.â€
Should interested parents apply for independent school through a recruitment program, or on their own?
Parker Collins recommends taking advantage of as many networks as you can, but notes that applying through a program doesn’t guarantee acceptance into the program.
“All the diversity programs are necessary because we haven’t reached critical mass yet with diversity recruitment, but they all have certain criteria. So, what does it mean if a child isn’t accepted into, for example, Early Steps? RIISE is here to develop in parents a sense of empowerment whether they are in a program or not. As I see it, despite what a certain program says I can or can’t do, or whether or not I meet the financial criteria, with RIISE it’s open season. If you see it and you want it, I want to help you create the mindset that says I’m going to go for it and see what happens.
“So I think yes, you should not have to go through this process by yourself. There are too many people who’ve gone ahead of you that can shed some light, create some networks, provide some encouragement. Then, once you’re in, RIISE will stick with you across our network of member schools.â€
Look for more interviews with Parker Collins when the second installment, which reviews the application process; and the third installment, about retention, are released. For more information about RIISE, go to http://4riise.org/.