The Power of Parent Involvement & 4 Ways Affinity Groups Do It!



Erica King Toler, PhD, leads one of our popular workshops called  Decoding the Code:  Helping Families to Thrive in an Independent School Environment. As she equips our parents with tools to decode the independent school culture, she also highlights the value of parent participation. With that in mind, let’s talk about parent involvement and the ways it can look at an independent school.

If you’re in the midst of applying you may feel that getting in is the hard part. However, families who are currently enrolled know that actively staying in can be very challenging.

When we think of creating success and legacy for our families in independent schools, parent involvement becomes extremely important.  Active involvement gives us a voice, and voice is power. Truth be told, the whole family was accepted, not just our children. So, we have to figure out how to fit school life into our busy schedules.  What does that look like? Does it mean supporting a one time event, like volunteering for teacher appreciation day, or is it going the distance by chairing a committee like the parent’s association?

Being involved in an affinity/resource group is also a great way to have a voice, be it with a one time event or longer as a chair of a committee. As families of color in a predominantly white space, these groups are extremely attractive. What role could you play?

Let’s look at 4 ways affinity/resource groups can have an impact, along with some groups that are making it happen!

  • Newsletters  – they can be an efficient way to share relevant information. Horace Mann’s Black Parent’s Union shares their voice regarding important events and information that strengthens the school community through the BPU Newsletter, which happens to be published by a busy Dad!

  • The Kick Off – these one time events energize groups for the school year. Chapin’s Parents of Children of Color got the year started by, hearing the voices of their students & admin; re-addressing the mission of the group through the historical archives of POCC; and, considered ways to influence the books chosen for the school library.


  • Book Discussions – what better way to show the value of diverse perspectives than to introduce them! Riverdales’s Parents of Color committee has been enjoying book discussions. POC recognized Hispanic heritage this year with parents discussing Hunger of Memory, The Education of Richard Rodriguez while students discussed Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes.


  • Getting out in the community – is a valuable opportunity for affinity groups to experience and learn together from institutions outside of schools. For MOSAIC, Columbia Grammar & Prep’s parent diversity committee, their families are heading out as a group to Lincoln Center’s Who is Tito Puente? next weekend.


These are just a few of the many ways you can make parent involvement a part of your journey at an independent school. Kudos to parents who acknowledge the reasons why they chose a private independent school education by getting involved – however they can! Our kids are watching, taking their cues from our actions or inactions.

Do you have a best practice to share?






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  1. Alissa Mayers
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Affinity groups for parents of color are a great way to lend support to parents, just as student affinity groups help support students of color. Also, being visible within your independent school’s community is important. So before the school year begins, sitting down and going through your school’s events calendar and selecting school wide events that, as a parent, you can attend can be a way to increase that visibility.

    As an alumna of an independent school, I often felt that I never really saw the parents of color. Now that there are affinity groups for parents (because there weren’t any when I was in school), they can be used to promote and organize more engagement. It can be hard to attend everything because with all of the school events and extracurricular activities, as a parent it is easy to get burnt out, but if parents of color strategically conclude how they can be more visible I think that also is powerful, along with their voice. Visibility not only sends a message to administrators and other parents, but it also send a message to all students, especially students of color. Being a unified group is important and affinity groups are a way of creating that unity; being a visibly unified group is also fundamental to the independent school experience.

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