EdChoice Launches “Parent Corps” to Empower Parents and Families 

When Candace Pate was the Director of Admissions and Community Partnerships at Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis, she heard the same story from many parents – they wanted a private education for their students, but couldn’t afford it. Candace made it part of her mission to inform parents of their options.

“I learned a lot more during that time about the Choice Movement more generally. And I wanted to come on board to be an advocate to help out just as much as I could with letting other parents know that they had a choice, that they didn’t have to settle for the school in their neighborhood. There are opportunities out there and dollars available to do it.”

Pate has been a consistent advocate for choice working with EdChoice’s Outreach team to educate parents on their options, and legislators and community groups on the importance of choice for all. She is also one of the founding members of our Parent Corps.

“The goal for us is to kind of bring a small core group of parents together that can coalesce around our values, our beliefs, and try to align it with our focus,” said Emory Edwards, Vice President of Outreach at EdChoice. “And then those parents can go back out and be able to have some small group conversations, build up small communities in their own, in their respective areas.”

EdChoice VP of Training Emory Edwards and Parent Engagement Manager Shaivon Stewart introduce Parent Corps branded gifts.

This small group of parents is called “Parent Corps.” Over the next two years, EdChoice’s goal is to activate and engage a core group of 50 to 75 parents, with an overall goal of reaching 1000 parents nationwide. The idea is to have a “train the trainer” model where core advocates can learn how to be effective advocates in their communities from EdChoice’s outreach team, then train others to do the same in a way that respects the views of all parents that support choice.

“It’s about understanding that you may want choice for this specific reason, but I may want choice for something else. At the end of the day, we both want choice,” Edwards said. “So, I’m not going to hamper or step on your toes because of the things that you want. But we can find a middle ground to where we all can coalesce and work together.”

The opportunity to support, educate and activate other parents resonated deeply with Candace Pate given her past experiences advocating for her community.

“Oftentimes, as parents, we are in situations where the people making decisions for our kids, either don’t even have kids, or have never actually been in our shoes,” Pate said. I wanted to let legislators know why choice was so vital and important because often times when they’re so far removed from it being a problem, it’s hard to understand what parents or their kids are dealing with when they go to school.”

Parent advocates attend a session at our Parent Corps Retreat in Tampa, FL.

But why EdChoice and why now?

President and CEO of EdChoice, Robert Enlow shared: “The reason we do our work is so that families can have the freedom to make sure that their children have access to an education that works best for their them and that leads them to actualize the best version of themselves. And so, it makes sense that EdChoice, particularly after the pandemic, takes that policy advocacy for parents to the next level by of coming alongside them.

During and since the pandemic, parents have become acutely aware of what is impacting their children’s education, and policymakers are coming alongside parents in unprecedented ways to support parental freedoms. Therefore, arming them with the skills and knowledge to leverage those relationships is key.

“Parent Corps is an effort to amplify the voices of parents and arm them with the information about what’s happening in their states related to school choice and their options,” Enlow continued. “That way, they can take their seat at the table in policy conversations and advocate for their kids.”

Parent Corps has the power to transcend divides with a common denominator – parents’ unrelenting love for their children.

“Even if parents are from different socio-economic backgrounds, we all have kids. And we have a love for our kids and we want what’s best for them. So, I think that that’s the bridge that connects with each of the parents. Every child is not the same. It’s your child. It should be your choice in regards to what type of education that they receive,” said Pate.

“My hope is that even if we change one family, that to me reaches the ultimate goal of being impactful by providing resources and providing families with options and making sure that they have everything in front of them to make the best decision for their child.”

Starting in January 2024, Parent Corps will be directed by Shaivon Stewart, EdChoice’s Parent Engagement Manager. As a mom herself, the passion to empower other parents runs deep.

“I am passionate about school choice because it acknowledges the diverse needs of students and allows parents the autonomy to choose the educational environment that best suits their children,” said Stewart.

“Parental engagement is the cornerstone of effective advocacy, and it is through engaged parents that we can collectively drive positive change in the educational landscape.”