The institute teaches parents to speak up about their passions and for their children.
By ASHLEY POWERS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- One woman had battled drug addiction and lost everything, including custody of her children.
For eight years, another had sought a baby she gave up for adoption, only to find the child living three doors down from her.
Bobbie Beadling's struggle was with her children's special needs. Amber, now 12, wrestled with schoolwork, and Nicholas, 8, had a bone marrow disorder "so rare they didn't have a name for it."
After each man and woman gathered at the Ursuline Motherhouse shared their tales of woe and redemption, "there wasn't a dry eye in the house," Beadling recalled.
But the group wasn't searching for sympathy. They were there to learn how to fight for the pet causes that had touched their lives and, more important, for their children.
Accomplishment: Beadling, a 35-year-old homemaker from Youngstown, was one of 21 Mahoning County parents to graduate from last year's inaugural Parent Leadership Training Institute. Sponsored by the Youngstown City Schools Family Readiness Center and multiple local businesses and organizations, PLTI is designed to empower parents through diversity training, public speaking skills and a knowledge of how to deal with government bodies.
"There's a belief in the community that parents are not involved because they don't care," said Suzanne Barbati, readiness center coordinator. "We don't believe that."
Each participant braves the 20 once-a-week sessions with a practicum designed to mirror their passions. The facilitators, Steven Mickel and Sherri Dawson, then show parents how to channel their proposals from paper to reality.
"We don't tell the parents what they need to go after," Mickel said. "We have tools for the parents to get what they want to go after."
Program beginnings: The curriculum is adapted from the Connecticut Committee on Children, which held the first PLTI in 1992. The program has spread throughout the country, with Ohio graduating 62 PLTI trainees last March. Local graduates reflected the spectrum of racial and economic diversity in the county, with business managers and welfare recipients alike attending.
Beadling said the program has subtly colored her day-to-day actions. For example, when her son's bout with chickenpox spread to her daughter, Beadling was forced to find a way for Amber to take the necessary courses to progress to seventh grade.
Because it was April, Amber likely would miss the rest of the school year. Most times, Beadling said, it takes about four weeks for administrators to find a teacher to tutor an ill pupil at home. Beadling dismissed waiting for the school to do something for her.
After Beadling spoke to her, Amber's teacher offered that day to tutor Beadling's daughter, who will enter Volney Rogers this fall.
"I set, like, a world record in this," Beadling said, laughing. She credits her PLTI training with calming her in what many would see as a crisis, allowing her to make focused, rational decisions.
In PLTI, she said, "I got an education I don't ever think I could get in a classroom." It's an education she'll apply to bigger issues, as well, such as bone marrow donation or special education.
When she signed up for the course, "I wanted to know how to go about it if my child or someone else's child was being treated unfairly," Beadling said. "Because I think, 'What about the parents who are afraid to speak up?' "