Family Night at the Perry School

By: Max Grossman

Three months into running Family Night at the Perry School, myself, my awesome team members Megan and Kristen, and our partner organization Little Friends for Peace have put on three very special events for the Perry School afterschool program’s students and parents. So far, the experience has proven both promising and challenging. The promise lay in family night’s cooperative activities and communal meals ability cultivated what I’ve seen as a culture of peace and engagement with one another within the program’s families. However family night has manifested a glaring challenge, that despite our best efforts, a number of our peace students’ families have not yet joined us for our monthly gatherings. Engaging these family members might be beyond the scope of family nights, or the events’ timing, or activities might be the most engaging for those who have yet to come. Nevertheless, the Family Night team and I will continue to use a combination of flyers, group text messages out to parents/guardians, and most importantly consideration of the feedback we receive from families about the events to try and make the gathering as welcoming, available, and attractive for our families.

In other Family night related news, Megan and I both had the awesome opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University gathering at the University of Miami! CGIU was a wonderful experience – we both had the opportunity to work on our 30 second pitches (always a useful exercise), build close relationships with our fellow GW commitment makers, make connections with commitment makers from around the country and world, and, most importantly learn from experienced social entrepreneurs and world leaders like the one and only Bill Clinton. Nonetheless, I took away two key lessons from CGIU: First being that before attending a conference like CGIU that attracts so many capable social innovators – those both new to and quite experienced in the field – it is best to make an action plan of who it is you want to meet and come up with strategies of what it is you want to learn from them. Otherwise, CGIU can become a bit overwhelming, and you may not leave the feeling like you met a whole bunch of awesome people, but are not totally sure what it is that you learned. The second bit of wisdom I took away came from Roger Horne – Director of Environmental Programming atTACOLCY Center, a community youth center in Liberty City, and Director of Community Health Initiatives for Urban Green Works, an organization the provides food security programs in South Florida’s low income communities.  During the session during a breakout session about revitalizing cities with Green Space, Roger told the audience that community-engagement projects, like family night, need to be so well planned and effective in achieving goals – those of which also need to actually address the issues important to the community – that the programs eventually are self sustaining to a degree that commitment makers’ are no longer necessary, and communities are able to address issues themselves. I found that to be extremely powerful, and certainly a bit of knowledge that I will carry with me as move forward in planning future Family Nights, and quite frankly, forever.