Norwood Park CLC launches Parenting Partners program

Norwood Park Elementary’s Community Learning Center (CLC) teamed up with its families in a new way to transform their students’ lives inside and outside the classroom.

The CLC launched Lincoln Public Schools’ first Parenting Partners program at the elementary school this fall. The program aims to empower parents by teaching them new skills to help their children thrive at home and school. 

“If I could learn something and have it help me be a better parent, it was well worth my time,” participant Brian Bendle said. He has two sons who attend Norwood Park. 

“We simply cannot help our students reach the heights of success if we are an island of education,” Norwood Park Principal Pam Hale said. “Education has to be ongoing and cross over all boundaries of a child's life. We must have parents involved with the work we are doing to create an optimal support system for our students.”

The workshop was divided into six-week sessions allowing parents to practice strategies they learned in role-play scenarios, discussions and workbook exercises.  For example, one of the lessons showed how families eating three to five meals together per week can increase a student's grades.Workshop organizers incorporated a family dinner donated by local restaurants to model that strategy. 

“Keeping the school, community and parents connected is vital because it fuels a healthier dynamic for all involved,” organizer Ralph Martinez said.  “We all need support in one way or another so when the school, community and families are all pushing towards one goal it can magnify the success for all involved.” Martinez works as the Northeast Family Center’s family and community engagement coordinator. The center sponsors Norwood Park’s CLC. 

After the six-week workshop, about a dozen parents celebrated their achievement in front of their children and loved ones in an emotional graduation ceremony.  Before receiving their certificates, a few parents shared the impact of the Parenting Partners program.  

“I was smiling inside and outside. The words of the parents were very touching and I know that the program has meant a lot to them,” Hale said. 

“I had chills throughout the entire graduation,”  Martinez said. “Observing the families interacting with their children knowing that is why they chose to participate in the workshop was powerful. I had and still have a great sense of pride for all of the families.”

Two of the greatest impacts were the bonds and added support systems the parents gained in the process. 

“It takes a village to raise kids and it's just important to work together to help create the next generation,” participant Mandi Haunont said. Haunont attended the program with her mother. She has three Roadrunners and also leads the school’s Parent Teacher Organization. 

Organizers mentioned the Parenting Partners program is at the heart of CLCs programming within LPS schools. 

“The mission of Lincoln CLCs is 'Successful Students - Thriving Families - Strong Neighborhoods,’” Lincoln CLC Director Nola Derby-Bennett said. “We know that our students do well in school when their families and neighborhoods are healthy places for them to learn and grow.”

Norwood Park plans to host another Parenting Partners workshop in the spring of 2024. Other CLC sites are also looking to adopt the program.

To learn more about Lincoln CLCs, visit our website at


Published: December 15, 2023, Updated: December 15, 2023

Smiles like this were seen around the room as approximately a dozen parents and guardians graduated from the Norwood Park Community Learning Center's Parenting Partners program.