Parents of Northeast Middle School students may find an easier transition into the school year by joining the Family Involvement Group (FIG).
FIG, now in its 3rd year, closes a gap between parents and a school system that can often seem impersonal and confusing. FIG provides a closeup view into the workings of a public middle school. Monthly meetings bring staff together with parents to help identify school needs, plan school events and support the students’ education. Before the group’s formation there had not been a parent group at NEMS for 15 years.
Parent Kimberly Caprini joined FIG last year because she wanted to find out who her 6th grade daughter, Sofia, would be exposed to at school.
After joining the FIG group, Caprini said it enabled her, “to let go of some of the rope.”
Bridging community is a key aspect to FIG’s work. Events in the community and in school have been a good way to do this.
Last year FIG was an instrumental part of some key community building events:
- International Night of Sharing
- Winter Warm-Up
- Audubon Park Spring WingDing
Last fall, the International Night of Sharing brought families together from a variety of nationalities to share food and conversation. Chris Pratt, FIG member, said that the event was a tremendous success because it brought together families that may not have been together otherwise.
“It was more inclusive,” he said.
“It was amazing,” Caprini said of the evening. “There were tables of food. People who wouldn’t normally mingle were there,” adding that a lot of translations were going on that night.
The Winter Warm-Up, another FIG event, helps provide funding for the annual musical held in the spring. The NEMS theater program operates under its own budget and does not receive school funds.
Held in January, The Winter Warm-Up is an adults-only event. Tickets run $25 and include food, entertainment, and a silent auction. The event covers a good portion of the musical’s expenses.
The Audubon Park Spring WingDing last April was an instrumental community-building event for both the middle school and the Audubon Neighborhood Association. Even with poor weather, many people attended, cramming into the park building to enjoy food, games and entertainment. Outside, NEMS band students performed a number of songs despite the rain. Other students helped serve food and pot flowers. Many teachers also showed up to support the event.
“Kids respond to that kind of stuff,” Caprini said.
But Pratt said FIG is not strictly a fundraising group and parents should not feel obligated to help with fundraising. FIG provides an important forum for parents to discuss what families are experiencing at the school.
One of the challenges FIG faces is how to attract and maintain a diverse and committed group of parents throughout the year.
Caprini understands the challenges parents face in attending evening meetings. They should not feel obligated to attend every meeting or feel pressure to sign up for help with events. But she does encourage parents to get involved in some way. It was the best way for her to feel comfortable with her own daughter’s transition into middle school.
“It is so important to get involved and for your child to see you involved. It’s a sense of comfort when you know the teachers, staff, and the people who are around your child everyday. The calm that comes over me, it’s an awesome feeling,” she said.
FIG hopes old and new parents will consider being a part of the group and partner with NEMS to enhance their children’s middle-school experience this year.
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