Duval County parents graduate from parent leadership program, launch community projects

Parents Who Lead is a partnership with Duval County Public Schools, Kids Hope Alliance, and the Jacksonville Public Library.


After 20 intensive classes, the third cohort of Parents Who Lead is graduating from a nationally renowned parent leadership program in Jacksonville. 

While the formal training is ending, the impact is just beginning. The 11 parents who have completed the program are now leading community projects to serve children in our community.

“Parent leadership is critical to the success of our schools,” said Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, which helped launch the program in 2018 in partnership with Duval County Public Schools, the Jacksonville Public Library and the Kids Hope Alliance. “That’s why JPEF is proud to support parents to help improve outcomes for our most vulnerable children.”

The program, known as Parents Who Lead, is the first of its kind in Jacksonville. It’s based on the model of the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI), created in Connecticut. A rigorous evaluation has shown that the model increases parents’ leadership skills and creates successful collaborations between different organizations. Graduates of the program in other communities have gone to serve in public office and several community projects have made significant changes across the country.

In Jacksonville, three cohorts of parents have graduated and gone on to lead projects on support for students with special needs, rallying support for the half-penny sales tax for Duval County Public Schools, and implicit bias training. Several parents in the Jacksonville program have worked in partnership with Duval County Public Schools and other local organizations to strengthen and improve programs that are impacting children in our city. Projects include informing teachers about children’s individualized education plans through FOCUS, the parent portal used by Duval County Public Schools, broadening the reach of DCPS’s Parent Academy by publishing content online, creating a food bank at a local elementary school and a tutoring program for high school students to benefit elementary school students.

The graduates and their projects are listed below.

  • Hind Chahed – Increasing access to culturally and linguistically relevant books for immigrant children
  • Safa Mahjoub – Promoting mental health and well-being among mothers
  • Marcus Smothers- Recruitment of male teachers for elementary education
  • Danita Matthews – Supporting parents of students in Duval County Public Schools afterschool programs
  • Sree Agni – Promoting dialogue about drugs and bullying with students
  • Mahak Gupta – Helping immigrants learn to navigate the public school system
  • Jill Hill – Helping parents of students with special needs understand their rights
  • Kamlesh Jethwani- Teaching parents and students how to use Microsoft Office in the workplace
  • Karen Dermuth - Bringing smart boards to self-contained classrooms for students with special needs
  • Vanessa Davis - Celebrating diversity
  • Andre Higgins - Connecting parents with student success stories through short video interviews




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