Since its founding 20 years ago, the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) has been a democracy school for more than 2,500 parents, grandparents, foster parents, guardians, and other caring adults who want to become leaders on behalf of children.
Meeting one night a week, with meals and child care provided for them, they've learned the skills needed to become strong, effective voices for children. Graduates have put their training to use on all levels of Connecticut life, serving with parent-teacher organizations, school governance councils, state advisory boards, non-profit boards, school boards, city councils-even the state legislature.
The tradition continued on June 20, 2012, when the PLTI Class of 2012 graduated in a ceremony held, appropriately enough, at the center of Connecticut democracy: the atrium of the Legislative Office Building (LOB) in Hartford. They were joined by graduates from a sister program, Parents Supporting Educational Excellence (Parents SEE), which the Commission developed in 2005 with the Center for School Change to provide parents with the skills and understanding necessary to become leaders and change agents in education at the school, district, and state levels.
The 257 graduates of the two programs-from Bridgeport, Bristol/Plainville, Danbury, Hartford, Meriden, Middletown/Middlesex County, Milford, New Haven, New London, Plymouth/Terryville, Stamford, Waterbury, West Hartford, and Windham-received legislative citations after devoting more than 100 hours to the training and completing individual community projects.
Among those onhand to congratulate the graduates were House Speaker Christopher Donovan, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, Judge Dawne Westbrook (herself a PLTI graduate), Commission on Children Chairman George Coleman, and Commission Executive Director Elaine Zimmerman.
Continuing a tradition begun in 2006, the graduation also served as the occasion for presenting the Robert Haller Memorial Award for Outstanding Community Service. Recipients are selected based on their passion, commitment, and ability to humbly lead on children's issues. This year, the award went to long-time PLTI co-ordinator and community advocate Donna Thompson-Bennett of Bridgeport.
In addition, the graduation ceremonies also served as the first of many events the Commission on Children will hold in the next 12 months to celebrate the 20th anniversary of PLTI.