Latrice Carmichael is a mother and graduate of Parents Who Lead. We asked her how the program changed her leadership -- here's what she said.
Photo: Latrice Carmichael (right) meets with Duval County Public Schools staff who work on services with students with special needs.
Before this program, did you consider yourself a "parent leader"? Why or why not?
Yes and no. As a parent of an intelligent son with learning challenges, I have been advocating for him for years. As a former PTA President at Love Grove Elementary and a current one at the Young Men’s & Women’s Leadership Academy at Eugene Butler, I have tried to be the voice of students and parents on a school level. I wanted to make some kind of positive difference for the students, parents and educators I served. The last six months with Parents Who Lead showed me that I am indeed a parent leader, but there is still so much more I could be doing.
How did this program change your view of what you can do as a parent leader?
Parent Who Lead taught me that my efforts are never too small. I don’t have to change the world, but if I can help positively change the lives of one person then their world would be changed. I’m more than “just” a parent, I am a voice that CAN and WILL make things happen. Most importantly, Parents Who Lead taught me how to successfully combine my passion of advocating for the best interest of each and every child with purpose and civic leadership so that policies can change to enhance my community as a whole.
What is your project, and why do you believe it’s important to children in Duval County?
My project is affectionately titled “Mommy, Me & My IEP.” I want to help parents/guardians navigate the system to meet the “special” needs of their child. There are currently over 28,000 students in Duval County alone who are considered special needs. The thought that many of them will not stay in school due to the their learning challenges is heartbreaking to me. We MUST fix that -- that cannot be the outcome for our most important stakeholders in the education system. Better understanding of IEPs by students and parents is not only needed, it’s vital to every student who has any level of disability. Their academic, social, functional and physical success depends on it “effectively” working. Therefore, parents need to know all we can so that we can help our child. Additionally, I hope my project will help to remove the stigma associated with IEPs. There is no shame in needing help. The shame is that we have not been doing all we can to help students with disabilities succeed. All of our children can learn, all of our children are amazing, but most importantly all of our children are all just that ... OURS. They deserve the very best education -- we owe it to them.