Shawanda’s story, a Stand IN Fellow

Parent & Family Engagement | 09/26/2019

Shawanda Tyson
IPS Parent Advocate

When I was only six years old, my father was wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. My mother now had five children to care for, alone. Because she never finished school, helping us with our education was hard for her. My mom didn’t know about GPAs or graduation requirements. She didn’t know how to be involved with my schooling. Today, I am deeply involved with my son’s education because I realized then how important it was. Today, because of a voicemail I received from Stand years ago, I have an abundance of support in my journey to becoming a parent advocate.

In 2011, my son was diagnosed with Autism. I didn’t know what that was. I was scared for him, so I started researching it online to learn how to help him. His first year of school was so rough – he was suspended on his first day of kindergarten and most of the 21 days after.

That was my first experience of really feeling like a battle was beginning.

From there, I switched him to a new school and worked with the staff and teachers to come up with a plan. Near the end of his kindergarten year, I received a voicemail from Stand about an event, and so I went. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I knew I wanted to support him and his education.


I got to the meeting an hour late, after work. During this intro meeting, I heard Stand Indiana’s Regional Organizing Director Ashley Thomas, say “you are your child’s first and most important teacher.” It made me realize that what I was doing wasn’t in vain.

I would sometimes feel drained, but I left this meeting feeling like I could conquer the world, help my child, and that I wasn’t alone.

Ashley made herself very approachable. She related to me, mom to mom, and she made me believe we could be the change, this small group of parents.

Since that day, I’ve been deeply involved with my son’s education, and Stand has been by my side every step of the way. Stand has become family to me. It’s so close to my heart.

Through Stand, I’ve learned parent involvement is everything. My involvement will help my child receive the best education possible and help other children too. By creating a community of engaged parents, I believe we can create a culture in which children know they are supported, and people know the parent voice matters.

As a Stand Fellow, I’ve become passionate about closing the opportunity gaps within Indianapolis schools and hope to replicate the excellent schools that are closing these gaps. I don’t want other moms and dads to worry about the quality of education their children are getting based on where they live or the amount of money they make. I want all children to have an equal shot at success.

Join me and fellow parents in the movement to ensure every Hoosier child receives the high-quality education they deserve.

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