Skip to main content

Program marks ‘graduation’ of 5,000th parent

December 23, 2008

Arizona State University celebrated the “graduation” of the 5,000th parent from the American Dream Academy during a ceremony Dec. 16 in Phoenix.

The academy works with schools in low-income, disadvantaged residential areas to provide a transformative experience for parents by teaching them how to navigate the school system and take an active role in their children’s education. It is the signature program of the Center for Community Development and Civil Rights at ASU’s College of Public Programs on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Parents of K-12 students receive free training through the nine-week program that aims to create a community where parents and teachers collaborate to transform each child's educational environment, both at home and at school, so that all children can achieve their greatest academic potential.

“The heart of the program is education because we believe that is the key to the American dream,” says Alejandro Perilla, director of the Center for Community Development and Civil Rights. “In order to really transform education, we have to give families the skills and tools that help to support and further develop what their children are learning in school.”

Now more than 5,055 parents have graduated from 58 program offerings in school districts across the Valley. The program has impacted more than 15,000 low-income, minority youth throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area since it began in 2006.

For many parents, the ceremonies mark the first time they’ve graduated from any program, and they often beam with pride while walking across the stage with their children. Several parents work two full-time jobs, but still make time to complete the program to ensure their children get the most from their education.

“I feel very confident that the information learned through these classes will help me advocate for my children’s social, emotional, academic and physical well-being, while building a mutually beneficial relationship with school and community,” says parent graduate Elijah Washington.

More than 75 volunteers use a curriculum that explains how to navigate the school system, use effective communication/collaboration with teachers and administrators, create a positive home learning environment, and support a child’s emotional and social development.

The ASU Center for Community Development and Civil Rights works to build bridges between ASU and the community to address problems, share knowledge and act as a catalyst for transformation. Its programs are designed to strengthen low-income, marginalized populations and help them become knowledgeable in education, finance, health care, and the basics of housing, transportation and local ordinances. For information about the Center, visit