Celebrity Athlete Moms Kicked Off Forum and Shared Tips on

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The U.S. Dream Academy with Co-hosts Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) and Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) presented the first ever, “Creating a Culture of Excellence Parenting for High Performance” Forum recently on Capitol Hill at the Rayburn House Office Building. The forum, was presented to raise awareness around the need for more effective and relevant parent engagement as a strategy for improving school and student achievement in K- 12. In honor of Mother’s Day, the U.S. Dream Academy welcomed the mothers of four top NFL, NBA and Olympic athletes who shared with the audience their stories on how they raised their strong, successful children into adulthood, even some against the odds of poverty and incarceration and the habits they developed in their sons and daughters that helped them become successful. They were joined by experts in the field of education along with parent advocates and education policy experts. The high profile panelists included; Wanda Pratt (mother of NBA All-Star MVP and Olympic Gold Medalist, Kevin Durant), Jacqueline Griffin (mother of NFL Redskin superstar quarterback, Robert Griffin III), Deborah S. Phelps (mother of Michael Phelps (world class swimmer) and Shonda Ingram (mother of NFL Running Back for New Orleans Saints and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Jr.). The mother’s stories although very different in their journeys included important lesson’s learned and personal stories of how they dealt with challenges raising their children and gave important feedback to parents that would help in raising their children against some of the odds. The education and parent engagement expert panelists included; Mr. Otha Thornton, Board Chair and President of the National PTA, and retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who earned Bronze Star for exceptional service in combat during Iraqi war; Ms. Rhonda Ulmer, Founder of University for Parents, and parent activist who led a parent movement that resulted in a whole school turn-around of a failing Title 1 public school; Joyanna Smith, the newly appointed Ombudswoman for Public Education, District of Columbia State Board of Education and Dr. Donald Sheffield, author, parent and educator who has trained thousands of parents how to create a culture of excellence in their home to help drive student achievement. The audience heard from experts and the mothers of professional athletes and learned about the powerful impact effective parent engagement can have on improving academic outcomes for failing schools. The education panel, provided statistics and addressed the critical need for parents to be engaged with their child’s education and the changes needed for the process of the education system to be more effective. Dr. Donald Sheffield made the claim that,” Any programs that are out there that involve youth, must involve parents.” The speakers explored how real-world solutions and effective education policy can help remove barriers for low-income families to more fully engage in their child’s education and help drive education reform where it is needed most. Both panels were moderated by C. Diane Wallace Booker, Executive Director of U.S. Dream Academy.