ParentNet- An Overlake Institution
Started in 1992 by Marilyn Price-Mitchell and Sue Grijalva, wife of then Head of School, Frank Grijalva, ParentNet was created as a way to connect Overlake parents with one another in a meaningful way for the betterment of their students and overall family life. In fact, nearly 30 years later, at every ParentNet meeting a philosophy statement from the ParentNet contract is still shared with attendees. It states: The underlying philosophy of ParentNet is the belief that, through open discussion with other parents, we become more aware of our own parenting styles, make better-informed choices, and help build a community where our children can thrive. Our primary focus is always on how we can be better parents.
For Susan Essex and Pauline Salgado, Overlake’s personal counselors who help provide the ParentNet meetings, having a structured place for parents to connect and build community has been invaluable. “ParentNet is an incredible resource for parents to come together to share their insights on grade-level trends, at-home victories, and relatable growing pains--which beautifully turns into meaningful, yet lively conversations,” says Salgado who is new to Overlake this year. “I've enjoyed seeing the friendship between parents and their ability to be each other’s cheerleaders through their shared experiences.”
And while Salgado is new to Overlake, Essex is not. She’s attended enough meetings through the years to know that the overall recipe of the program has not changed, although maybe some new “ingredients” have been added. “I’ve been to approximately 70 meetings so far, and I think the core of our discussions are the same, basically how to best give our kids roots and wings. However, I think technology has definitely changed how parenting challenges manifest and how solutions develop, so this topic has only increased over the years, and in all grades.”
Technology advances have changed quite a lot from the early 1990’s when there weren’t smart phones or social media for parents to contend with, and yet parents have always valued the advice from others “in the trenches” of child-rearing. “ParentNet thrived here and so they were able to expand it in 2001 to a national organization,” explains Essex. Now, ParentNet falls under a new organization, the Washington State Family and Community Engagement Trust. Schools across the country have ParentNet meetings for their families.
The program’s growth is not only in geographic terms, but in its richness of connection between people. “Diversity of opinion is really important to this program, and this is a place where differences in family cultures is respected,” says Essex. “I am moved by my experiences in each meeting, as I witness parents of different ethnicities, languages, philosophies, and cultures take the time to engage in respectful dialogue – they learn from each other! Parents are able to come ask questions about other parents’ experiences parenting, they listen to one another with respect, and they offer ideas around the table about how to navigate a variety of parenting challenges. With over 50% of our facilitators and attendees as people of color, we are getting a rich representation from our family base. This helps our community actively grow in inclusion. We can all connect with each other on the love we have for our children.”
Overlake is a place for continual learning and that means the adults in our community as well. ParentNet is just the place to learn some new parenting tips. “Whether you're new to ParentNet or you've consistently been going to the meetings, you're guaranteed to come away with learning something new, creating connections with other parents, as well as having some good laughs in between,” explains Salgado.
ParentNet meets two times each year for each grade level. Currently Spring sessions are underway. For a listing of dates and times, check out the Overlake ParentNet webpages.
“It is a light, creative, insightful, and often hilarious conversation around the table with parents who are going to keep traveling this same road towards graduation with you,” says Essex. “I hope all parents will take a chance at coming if they haven’t been or haven’t been in a while, to hear what’s on parents’ minds and build this network of friends.”