Dr. Jerry Stein’s first contribution to the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Vision 2020 Blog. 

Learning Dreams: When Parents Succeed, Students Achieve

When a student struggles in school, it’s often assumed that the teachers, school system and/or student are responsible. However, through our research at CEHD we’ve discovered that family and community are primary factors in ensuring success and creating a culture of learning. The most effective way to encourage students to succeed in school is to build a strong foundation and culture of learning outside of the school, which starts by instilling a love of learning within parents. Developing and supporting parents’ goals and aspirations is the first step towards building a culture of learning in the home. In our work, we’ve seen that when parents are excited and motivated to attain their life goals, they are more likely to pass on their excitement to their children and inspire them to engage in learning. As we shared in a recent blog, children seek to imitate what they see and hear at home, so it’s critical that parents express their own enthusiasm for reading and learning to their children.

Creating a Culture of Learning through Learning Dreams

Learning Dreams reaches out to struggling families to connect existing home and community-based support which help parents become active learners. Volunteers or staff meets with parents to identify and define their personal dreams, then connect them to resources in the community to help make their dreams possible. We engage libraries, employment centers, community colleges, businesses, and other institutions, to form a local network of learning between families and communities.

The program began more than a decade ago as a three-year pilot project in the Glendale public housing community in Minneapolis. At the end of two years, encouraging results were achieved among the 20 participating families and their students:

  • Truancy rate dropped to zero
  • 100% parent participation in school conferences
  • An uptick in student academic performance

These positive outcomes have led to partnerships with other schools and community organizations, including Cherokee Heights Elementary School in St. Paul, Pratt School in Southeast Minneapolis, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities,YouthLink and Magic Breakfast in the UK.

How Learning Dreams Helps Parents and Students Achieve

From learning how to drive at age 30, to playing a musical instrument to going back to school, every parent we work with has unique goals and aspirations. We’ve found it’s often a matter of reminding parents about their passions, motivating them to commit to reaching their goals, and providing them with the resources that make their dreams attainable. Learning Dreams volunteers and staff find the connections in the community to help parents work towards their dreams. We also provide ongoing support and encouragement to the families. Once parents are on the learning path to achieving their dream, Learning Dreams works with them to support the learning of their children.

Through actively supporting a culture of learning in homes and communities, Learning Dreams is taking an innovative approach to creating a foundation for education success. Check back next week to learn more about how we’re building a footprint in communities to share and strengthen the network and culture of learning.

Jerry Stein, Youth Development Leadership Program Director, School of Social Work

Interested in volunteering and/or partnering with Learning Dreams? Find out how to get involved here.