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Local parents engaging in Parent University Pensacola

Parent Gwen Hunter holds the flyer for Parent University Pensacola's Ensley Elementary School event .
Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media
Parent Gwen Hunter holds the flyer for Parent University Pensacola's Ensley Elementary School event .

Parent University Pensacola has been building momentum since its first official event last August.

At a recent event at Ensley Elementary School, parent Kimberly Baker said she was attending to find out what resources are available to "better educate my kids."

Baker is mom to a 19-year-old and an 11-year-old, who’s still in school. She believes Parent University is important because it is not only educating parents about available resources, but it’s also connecting them and giving them navigation skills.

“They teach you how you can buy a house and how to manage your finances and about mortgage and stuff that you need to basically run your household to be more efficient,” Baker said acknowledging that she was looking into buying a house.

Also interested in homeownership — and furthering her education — is parent Gwen Hunter.

“Yes, I want to talk to Habitat today and then I want to talk to someone about getting into school,” she said.

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It’s a family affair for Hunter with her son Calvin and his fiancé Jordan Anthony, her brother Rob and his wife Beverly, and her family friend, Lisa.

Anthony is just beginning her family and is looking to Parent University to help her get off on the right foot.

“I just want to learn about the different programs, see what best suits me as a new mother and what I can do to help my child,” Jordan said.

“Good morning, good morning, good morning. For the early birds who are here, breakfast is open,” says Michael O’Neal, Parent University’s executive director, and founder, getting things started. “We have a deluxe continental breakfast. Just go in through that door and pick up fruit and a breakfast bar.”

From this point on, the parents begin to determine which classes they plan to attend and which of the many vendor/resource booths they want to visit.

There are representatives for Emerald Life and Health Insurance Company, Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program, and Health and Hope Clinic in Pensacola. This is just a sampling of the resources available.

“It’s a free clinic if you don’t have health insurance,” said one vendor from Health and Hope Clinic in Pensacola, noting income and age eligibility for services provided on the spot, including health care screenings, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

These vendors line the hallway in one of the school’s wings. China Brockway, who has four children, from age 15-months-old to 12-years-old, is working her way through.

Mother of four China Brockway stops at a vendor table to hear about health insurance.
Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media
Mother of four China Brockway stops at a vendor table to hear about health insurance.

“I’ve been coming here for about four times now,” she declares. “I get out of it the resources, a good time. Also, the education is really important to me, anything to better myself as a parent.”

On this day, Brockway has begun with a stop at a vendor table to discuss health insurance, but with her participation overall, she’s been making the rounds and making an effort to get the most out of the Parent University experience.

“The last time, I took Habitat for Humanity (the class)," she said. "I also took a class about understanding the mind of the little ones. I did the YMCA class at one point in time, which was really cool. There’s been a few."

She's not only learning, but enjoying herself.

“It gets me out of the house," she said. You get to have fun. I love learning. Then you get all these knickknacks and you eat, too."

“There ain’t nothing bad about coming that’s for sure and you get picked up to go, yeah.”

As Brockway moves on to her next stop, Baker walks by. She’s trying to figure out her agenda for the day, including what classes she’s going to sign up for.

“I haven’t decided yet,” she declared. “But, I think I’m going to take the first class, “Bringing you to Resources One Program at a Time.”

It takes at least nine class credits to graduate from Parent University, which plans to hold a graduation ceremony in June.

Meantime, the next Parent University Pensacolaevent is set for Saturday, April 30 at Montclair Elementary School, 820 Massachusetts Avenue.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.