34 Duval County Parents Selected for Intensive Civic Training Program



A diverse cohort of 34 parents has been selected to participate in Parents Who Lead, an intensive program on civic leadership that teaches parents how to be effective advocates for children. The program is a partnership between the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF), Duval County Public Schools (DCPS), the Jacksonville Public Library and the Kids Hope Alliance.

This year, the group includes a wide range of identities representing parents in Duval County: men and women, Jews, Hindus and Muslims, refugees, military parents, as well as many political affiliations and professions, including a forklift driver and the CEO of a company.

The parents selected for the program have demonstrated their leadership through volunteer work, serving on the PTA and other community groups. They are motivated to take their leadership to the next level because of a variety of issues affecting children: Poverty, safety, bullying, mental health issues, inequities in social services, school facility conditions, services for students with special needs, funding for schools, language barriers and cultural differences and social media issues.

Participants will attend weekly three-hour classes for 20 weeks and complete a community project of their choosing in order to graduate from Parents Who Lead. This week, JPEF and partners finalized the list of participants from 45 highly qualified candidates, who filled out a questionnaire and were interviewed as part of the selection process.

“I want to be a role model for my son as a lifetime learner,” wrote one applicant. “I would like to be a voice for all students and families. Our students deserve the absolute best!”

It’s the second group in Jacksonville to participate in the program, which is structured after the model by the National Parent Training Institute and launched in Jacksonville last year.

Eight parents graduated from last year’s program, and have gone on to lead community projects such as: teaching parent education classes about how to advocate for children with special needs, hosting a workshop for teachers on implicit bias, developing an online resource portal for parents of gifted children, leading a park clean-up, and advocating for traffic safety improvements outside First Coast High School.

Parents Who Lead alumni have also played a major role in the community conversation around a tax referendum for Duval County Public Schools, appearing in the media and before City Council to advocate for letting the voters decide.

“Parents are inherently interested in the well-being of children,” said JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune. “This program equips them with the skills and connections to translate that commitment into effective advocacy for all children in our community.”

“I absolutely commend these parents who are truly emblematic of what it means to be Team Duval,” said Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene. “School safety, equity in education, and mental health resources are just a few examples of areas where the community as a whole has to collaborate together to find solutions, and these parents are doing just that! They are investing their resources and hundreds of hours of their own time to develop themselves into child advocates and agents for change in the community.”

The curriculum teaches parents about city and state law and budgets, how to use the media to effect change and public speaking. Child care and hot meals are provided during the evening classes to ensure the program is accessible to all.

The program begins with an all-day retreat on Sept. 7 at 9 a.m. at the Schultz Center for Teaching  and Leadership at 4019 Boulevard Center Drive. Media are invited to attend the first hour of the program.

Below is the full list of parents who were selected to participate.


Kewal Bhardwaj

Amy M. Boyle

Kelli Broadfoot

Bernadette D. Brown

Shanna Carter

Manjula Chandran

Dominic R. Cummings

Myisha De Nose

Nina Frank

Latrica Gillis

Jillian Gishler

Lindsay R. Grayson

Monika Gupta

Ronda Kent-Cummings

Kisha Mayo Lewis

April Lloyd

Maria Lowney

Sarah Mattison

Anika McCray

Kelly McParland

Cyd Marie Medina

Carla Mercer

Shericka Mosley

Jennifer Nagy

Penny Nevins

Aerial Pensa

Courtney Taylor

Latoya Taylor-White

Cyrus Tookes

Monique N.  Tookes

Jessica Utley

Fuada Velic

Catherine Weiss

Kim Wimberly


Contact Stephanie Garry Garfunkel, Director of Marketing & Communications, at (352) 359-2393 or stephanie@jaxpef.org for more information.




About the Jacksonville Public Education Fund

The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is an independent nonprofit organization that works to spark innovation, relationships and resources to power the potential within and around our public schools to achieve excellent outcomes for all students. For more information, visit www.jaxpef.org or call (904) 356-7757.




of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.