Toyota Black Star Parent University Sends Parents Back to the Classroom

Despite President Bush’s declaration in 2001 that “no child should be left behind,” the racial achievement gap is still alive and well in the American education system. Phillip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project, tried for many years to bridge the achievement gap in his hometown of Chicago by working with minority students.

“I was interested in educating children… but I found out that I couldn’t educate children without their parents.”

Jackson recently teamed up with Toyota to launch a three-year initiative called the Toyota Black Star Parent University, a program that will educate parents to be “the first, best, and most important teachers for their children.” The program, which is designed for parents of Chicago public school students, will also be available to all parents in Chicago.

In his very community, Jackson witnessed generation after generation of young people continually being sucked into the vicious cycle of poverty and hopelessness. “Did you know that only four out of 10 black boys graduate from high school?” Jackson exclaimed. “Who are the girls going to marry?” With his program, Jackson hopes to provide a way for parents to break the cycle and lead their children on a path to a brighter future.

“Parents and young people face many obstacles,” said Jackson. “The Parent University will provide them with support and resources to help guide their families. It will open doors for parents who may not traditionally have access to these services, providing a strong foundation for developing children who honor themselves and their communities.”

The Toyota Black Star Parent University will offer 30 classes during the 2004-2005 school year. Classes will be held in schools, community centers, libraries, and churches. Topics will include “Instilling Character and Values in all Children,” "Understanding and Navigating the Maze of Special Education, Especially for Black Boys,” and “The Role of Parents in Ensuring the Education of Their Children.” Top parent advocates, social service and youth development experts, and educators will teach the courses.

The three-year pilot initiative will start in Chicago with expected national expansion. “We are excited about the opportunity to take the Toyota Black Star Parent University to other cities,” said Jackson. “This university is capable and ready to go to any city in America to educate parents.”

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. contributes to a number of community organizations and programs, many of which are educational in nature. “We believe the Black Star Parent University will provide valuable assistance to parents of Chicago students, which in turn will help the children become better students,” said Tom McCandless, Toyota Motor Sales Inc. national manager.

Toyota contributed $240,000 to launch the Toyota Black Star Parent University. In addition to this project, Toyota also sponsors the National Center for Family Literacy, scholarships for UNCF, and the Toyota Community Scholars Program.

For more information on the Toyota Black Star Parent University, contact the Black Star Project at blackstar1000@ameritech.net.