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  Free To Grow
  Mailman School
  of Public Health
  Columbia University
  722 West 168th Street,
  8th Floor
  New York, NY 10032

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NOTE: as of April 17, 2007, the Free to Grow program has closed.
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Parent Leadership Training Institute
Leadership Development: Parents

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> Parent Leadership Training Institute website

Connecticut Commission on Children

The Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) is designed to enable parents to become leading advocates for children.  Parents are offered a leadership training that includes a retreat to develop group communication, 10 weeks of classes on self and perception of leadership, 10 weeks on practicing democracy skills building with a corresponding project to practice civic skills, and a graduation at the State Capitol. Parents receive diplomas from the Secretary of State. The course includes: understanding personal history and its impact on perceptions of leadership; thriving and working with diversity; assessing and defining problems; utilizing the media; speaking publicly; utilizing benchmarks and outcome measures; forming useful coalitions and building community; understanding policy and program budgets, and becoming familiar with city, state and federal law.

(Adapted from information on the Parent Leadership Training Institute, A Connecticut Commission on Children Civic Leadership Initiative website, 2004, and used with the permission of the Parent Leadership Training Institute)


Just as parents define the curriculum, parents participate in the evaluation and outcomes. Many participants have returned to school either to get their GED or to complete college degrees as a direct result of PLTI. Others have obtained jobs in the community that allow them an avenue to advocate for children and families. As result of their participation, parents have:

  • Organized an advocacy group to speak out against proposed Board of Education cutbacks.
  • Been elected president of the school PTO.
  • Been elected as co-chair of the Head Start Council.
  • Created the Sunshine Club to provide recreational activities for children and mothers at a local women's residential facility and taught parenting skills.
  • Developed a public access TV show called Hidden Treasures that provides the general public with information regarding programs that benefit children and families.

(Adapted from The Parent Leadership Training Institute, Norwich/New London, reprinted with permission of the Parent Leadership Training Institute)

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Children First Initiative: Rumel Johnson

As a parent and employee at the Jennings School Family Resource Center in New London, Rumel Johnson wanted to learn more about the school system and what was available in the community for families and their children. " I had no idea that I had a voice as a parent," she says. Active in the PTO, she was soon appointed Parent Organizer. In this position she realized she needed more training to help her assist other parents. She enrolled in New London's Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) program. "Taking a parent leadership training course has given me those tools to succeed in making sure the school system was providing my children with the best education possible."  In addition to working in the community, Ms. Johnson has enrolled in Three Rivers Community College. She hopes to earn her degree in social work so she can continue to advocate for children and their parents. For the full story, visit:

(Excerpted from The Parent Leadership Training Institute, Norwich/New London and reprinted with permission from the Parent Leadership Training Institute)

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> A Democracy Toolkit for Parents



copyright 2008 Free To Grow
Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.