Being a Voice for Others: Parent Leadership

High School Success, Parent & Family Engagement | 10/23/2018

Katie Gustainis
Marketing & Communications Manager, Stand for Children Washington

Tammy Mitchell isn’t afraid to tell her kids what’s right from wrong.

“My kids, I know they have friends who have struggled to speak up about not having food. I’ll host big cookouts at the house, and invite them over to eat. Even when they aren’t close friends any more, I’ll tell them that we still need to have them over. And that we should continue to be there for them anyway.”

Her experiences have straddled the worlds of being a homeless teen, and a loving adoptive family.

 

“Growing up how I did, it encouraged me to be a leader for kids. Even when I was a teenager. Suffering from child abuse and alcoholic parents, I wanted to stick up for other kids.”

As a Parent Leader for Stand for Children, Tammy volunteers in Spokane to organize other parents. She also helps them advocate for their children’s education.

“It takes somebody standing up to be a voice for those who can’t do it for themselves.”

When Tammy was in school, she struggled with an undiagnosed learning disability and anxiety. This made school difficult. “I got bullied," she says, "I would always tell the teachers, but they wouldn’t listen. My mom stood up for me, and she instilled in me that parents fight for their kids.”

Now as a mother of seven she knows the difficulties she faced in school are possible for her kids too. She also recognizes that her reality as a homeless teen is the reality for so many children today.

“That’s a big part of the reason that I wanted to be involved with Stand,” she says. “There are homeless kids who need support. They need to feel safe and to know that they don’t have to do what they’re doing. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to that stuff. But it’s there.”

Tammy was at the beginning stages of organizing a parent group at her son’s high school when she met Darcelina, Stand’s Spokane Organizer. “Darcelina asked me if I wanted to be involved, and I was ready.”

As the 2018 legislative session got underway, Tammy volunteered to travel to Olympia with other Spokane parents and students. She met with lawmakers to speak in support of the High School Success legislation being considered in the Senate Education Committee.

“When we went to Olympia I was kind of nervous, but after I started cracking jokes it eased my anxiety. I just really want to be a voice for the ones who can’t have a voice, especially parents. They have a hard time having a voice and they don’t even know they have a right to have a voice.”

Eight months after her trip to the state capitol, Tammy is now heavily involved as a volunteer. She just launched her own team as a Parent Leader with Stand. “I’m finding things in myself that I didn’t even know,” she says of her experience organizing other parents. “It’s pushed me to be more social with people. I used to have bad anxiety around groups and speaking. It’s pulled me out of my shell in a way. It’s gotten me to be more relaxed when it comes to speaking about something I really believe in.”

As she thinks ahead to the 2019 session, Tammy’s feeling even more ready.

“I told a bunch of people that even though it looks intimidating, they really want to hear from more parents, students, and teachers. I’m excited to go back to Olympia, and take a different role than when I went the first time. This time I'll be helping other parents.”

Her passion and dedication is what drives her to stay active and advocate for public schools: “Kids are our future. We can’t ignore facts. We don’t want someone representing us who doesn’t care about us. We’ve got to give them the education they deserve.”

 

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