In July, Ascend held the second in a series of Masterclass Webinars for our national Network. The webinar, “In Their Own Words: Engaging Parents as Messengers of the 2Gen Movement,” featured Ascend Network Partners and parents who spoke to the importance of integrating family voice into program and policy development, and strategies for engaging and empowering parents as agents of change.

Speakers on the webinar included:

  • Steffanne Ferris, Coach, JeffCo Prosperity Project, Jefferson County Department of Human Services
  • Geoff Foster, Director of Policymaking, UTEC
  • Brian Rosario, Parent at UTEC
  • Ed Walker, Parent at JeffCo Prosperity Project
  • Rynn Bell, Parent at JeffCo Prosperity Project

Check out the webinar recording on our GoTo channel here and read on for some key take-aways from the speakers, covering:

  • Strategic recruitment of parents,
  • Empowering community members to tell their stories,
  • Political activism and influence, and
  • Overcoming challenges faced by multi-generational service providers

If you have questions about any of the topics discussed, Ascend would be happy to connect you to our panelists for further dialogue.

Steffanne Ferris (JeffCo Prosperity Project) on breaking down barriers for successful family services:

“There are system barriers and challenges to attaining certain services. Sometimes we’ve made an assumption incorrectly as an organization to think that if resources exist then parents have access to those resources, and that is not always true… We had some of our leaders in the local mental health community sit with some of our families, and our families were able to tell them ‘Hey, your hours are only from 8-5 and we don’t get off work until 5’… they weren’t able to access mental health services, so that local organization extended their hours a couple nights a week in order to be able to serve the community in more of a practical way.”

Ed Walker (JeffCo Prosperity Project) on his role shaping the JeffCo Prosperity Project:

“We as a group of parents were able to jump in and provide a map of how the organization would be formed. We had the opportunities of leadership and fellowship to use the social capital of the group, we were able to pick the coaches which was a big help to us… we got to select people who we were comfortable talking with and who would come to our homes and work with us and not just lay out a whole bunch of rules and things to follow.”

Rynn Bell (JeffCo Prosperity Project) on how she passes her legacy of political leadership on to the next generation:

“For the advisory committee, the kids have a group that they do too. When we get home we sit around the table and talk about ‘what happened at your group, what did you learn, what did you do’… As we start getting into these classes where we’re actually learning about bills and policies, even though it may be boring for a 10 year old or a 13 year old, I feel like it is very important that they know how they can advocate for themselves at a local, state or federal level.”

Geoff Foster (UTEC) on empowering community members to share their stories and impact change:

“With our empowerment model, our goal ultimately is to bring the expertise of our parents, people like Brian, to help us influence UTEC’s programming, and then also work toward statewide policymaking. All of our young people get SoJust Education, so our young people have regular workshops on social justice issues… [we have] a UTEC Council, a group of 12 young adults who advise on programs and policies [in-house]… [and] UTEC has also worked with a variety of statewide coalitions that are all empowering youth to go and run their own policy campaigns at the state level.”

Brian Rosario (UTEC) on his experience with the program:

“I’ve been here only for 3 months at UTEC and I can truly say that the three months that I’ve been here, I love it. I can be feeling at a zero and as soon as I walk through the UTEC doors my mood goes from a zero to a ten. Now I’m 22 years old, I have my own house, I live happily with my three kids and my girl.”

If you are interested in more tools for your organization, you can check out Ascend’s Making Tomorrow Better Together Report, which provides logic models for incorporating family voice into 2Gen approaches.