Local Advocacy in Stanislaus: How to Engage Parents

The Challenge: How do you connect with parents across a large, rural county with twenty-three separate school districts?

The Strategy: Invite parents to an event featuring resources for advocacy and a free night of theater.

The Story: When the Stanislaus Alliance for Arts Education launched last fall, it was clear that parents were key to preserving or expanding arts education in Stanislaus schools.

“We saw right away that the districts that had arts programs were the ones where parents were involved -- through booster clubs, PTAs or education foundations,” says Patty Larrick, the local organizer for the Stanislaus Alliance. “Our challenge was to bring all these different groups together, in order to share best practices and coordinate efforts.” 

The Alliance team decided that the best way to spark countywide participation was to bring people together around an art event. Through a partnership with the Gallo Center for the Arts, a premier performing arts center and community hub in Stanislaus, the Alliance put together an event that offered local parents advocacy resources and a trip to the theater.

“Parents attended a unique storytelling performance at the Gallo Center and they also got to sit in the audience with school children and witness their response to the show,” says Heather Duvall, a school board member in the Valley Home district and a member of the Alliance team. “For many of these students it was the first time they had seen live theater. I think seeing their enthusiasm and engagement reinforced how important the arts are in children’s lives.”

Takeaways: Over forty-five parents attended the Gallo Center event, many of whom signed up to join the Alliance, volunteered to work on special projects or signed up for the mailing list. The event also garnered media attention, which introduced the Alliance and the issue to the wider community. The Alliance also received several requests to come and share their advocacy expertise at district meetings and PTA groups. 

According to Duvall, “Resource-sharing is essential to the success of a small district like ours. By collaborating with other districts in the area doing similar work, we can do far more than we could on our own.”

To learn more about the California Alliance’s Local Advocacy Project, including how to start a coalition in your community, click here. To visit the Stanislaus Alliance home page, click here.