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Moms convene to tackle education

NATCHEZ — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the toughest group of women in Washington this May — moms.

Natchez mom and grandmother, Deloris Irving, was among 51 women selected to attend the first Mom Congress from May 2 to 4.

Irving, who is president of the Mississippi Parent-Teacher Association, said Duncan inspired her with the story of his mother’s impact on his life and in the community near Chicago where he grew up.

Parenting Magazine, which sponsored the conference, chose Irving along with one outstanding mom from each state and one from the District of Columbia to join forces and brainstorm solutions for what Duncan calls on his Web site, “the most pressing issue facing Americans” — education.

Irving said the conference provided her with a lot of good information, resources and networking opportunities, and she enjoyed the conference setting at Georgetown University.

She said one of the topics covered at the conference was childhood obesity, a problem in which Mississippi leads.

Another topic discussed was the proven importance of male parental involvement in a child’s life.

They also discussed the advantages social networking can offer parents to stay involved in their child’s education even when they cannot be present at school or PTA meetings due work schedules.

Victoria Livadas, a spokesperson for The Parenting Group, said the all-expenses-paid conference was held to honor and celebrate outstanding mothers, but also to put them to work brainstorming solutions to the problems schools face around the country.

“It was a really, really successful and really inspiring couple of days,” Livadas said.

A “lesson plan” teaching parental involvement will be composed from the wisdom of the ladies who attended. The lesson plan will be communicated in an article and published in the October edition of Parenting Magazine.

After representing Natchez in the capital, Irving did not come home empty handed.

LeapFrog and KinderCare, two educational companies that helped sponsor the conference, issued donations to local schools in Irving’s name.

LeapFrog donated Tag School Reading Systems, an interactive reading system that brings books to life, and a full library of storybooks and activity books, which will likely go to Frazier Primary School.

KinderCare donated a book station, which includes a bookcase and dozens of books, which will likely go to West Primary School.

Irving said the common thread between every mom at the Mom Congress was that they understood the importance of parental involvement in education.

“It’s not one of those things that ‘well maybe if your parents were involved it would be better,’ It’s a proven fact,” Irving said.

She said the easiest way to get involved is to join the PTA, and parents should not be discouraged from joining if their work schedules do not permit them to attend each meeting.

Irving suggested parents make occasional efforts to carve out 30 minutes to volunteer at school, because it provides children with a sense of their presence.

She also said those who are not mothers and fathers or grandmothers and grandfathers, but have a concern for the community, should also feel free to join the PTA.

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