Who is PEN

Parent Engagement Network 2012 Peer Education Team

PEN 2012 Peer Education Team

Raising mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy young people is imperative to a thriving community. This task gets increasingly challenging, as our world gets more complex. Raising children isn’t about surviving; it is about enjoying the ride and creating thriving families and communities across generations. That’s where Parent Engagement Network (PEN) comes in. After nearly 15 years in Boulder County, we’re trusted among parents, schools, and professionals to give the support needed for a thriving future!


To engage, educate, and empower parents in promoting the social-emotional and mental well being of youth and families.


What does this mean?

Parent engagement is a shared responsibility between families and communities. Schools, agencies, and organizations reach out to parents in meaningful ways, while parents actively support their children’s learning and development.

Social-emotional, and mental well-being involves giving parents the support they need to acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills desirable for their children to learn how to:

  • manage their emotions.
  • set and achieve goals.
  • feel and show empathy for others.
  • establish and maintain positive relationships.
  • make responsible decisions.
Casey Middle School Family Dinner 2010

Casey Middle School Family Dinner 2010

Working with PEN leaves parents ready to protect youth from life’s risks, as well as raise them to be strong and successful. This is done by fostering protective factors like positive relationships, coping skills, problem-solving skills, and more that are foundational to healthy individuals, families, and neighborhoods. When parents face difficult times or challenging issues, PEN has the resources to remove fear-based conversations and empower parents to take actions that get them through the tough times.

How do we do this?

Our work is not done in a vacuum; it is done through partnerships with schools, organizations and businesses, individual experts, and young people. PEN connects community resources to one another, creating the context for conversations around real issues, and encouraging a common language around parenting. Some ways we do this are:

  • surveying parents to identify their needs and concerns.
  • collaborating with organizations and professionals to respond to ever-changing circumstances.
  • connecting parents with trusted professionals and service providers.
  • training 100s of volunteers and parent leaders who train families to be positive and resourceful in their parenting.
  • building foundational parenting skills in areas such as personal awareness, child and adolescent development, communication and relationship building, and knowledge of risks and protective factors.
  • modeling strengths-based communication and thinking.
  • assisting parents in navigating risky behaviors and parenting challenges as they arise.
  • educating the larger community on their role in supporting families.
  • acting as a central touchstone for increasing parent engagement and building healthy families.


What is the lasting impact?

Families are:

  • stronger, more resilient, and prepared when faced with tough times.
  • vocal about the different needs and concerns in their parent community.
  • equipped with solution-focused parenting rather than fear-based reactions.
  • resourced and prepared to be their child’s best advocate.


Schools have:

  • a greater capacity to empower parents to envision a better future for their children.
  • support in their goals to create a welcoming environment, strengthen communication between parents and schools, promote a positive school climate, and build social-emotional capacity in children.
  • a team of professionals that provide research-based best practices, expert speakers, and parenting tools for their community.
  • strengthened efforts to improve parent engagement in marginalized populations.


Businesses and community organizations are:

  • now more aware of the needs and the changing climate in their community.
  • connected to families and other service organizations that support their work.
  • benefiting from thought leaders who contribute powerful ideas to the community.
  • becoming a part of a common conversation on youth issues, parent concerns, and paths to positive youth development.


PEN was founded in 2001 as a grassroots parent organization working in partnership with the Boulder Valley School District to respond to substance use issues revealed in the community. Over time, our programs have expanded greatly to provide education, support, and resources around a variety of issues impacting youth and families. These include everything from risk behaviors like self harm, eating disorders, depression, suicide prevention, and bullying, to preventative tips on raising resilient youth, building positive family relationships, fostering a healthy self image, communication skills, as well as managing stress and anxiety. PEN is also equipped to provide general education around diversity, technology, sexual orientation, and transitioning to middle school, high school, and college. PEN supports the growing Latino population in Boulder County by translating and interpreting its programs, and offering services specific to their needs. PEN became a non-profit in 2009.

We don’t want individuals, families, and communities to simply get by… we want them to THRIVE!

PEN Video

PEN has received local and national attention for its interactive, positive approach to parent engagement. PEN has presented its successful model to national, state, and local groups, such as the Department of Education, Search Institute, Parent Corps, and Assets for Colorado Youth.
As featured on the Today Show and a cover story in Newsweek in 2004, the Parent Engagement Network (PEN) began as a “Call to Action” by the Superintendent of the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) at the request of parents. It started as a Substance Abuse Task Force to encourage parent involvement in creating solutions to high-risk behaviors among our youth. The task force evolved into the Parent Engagement Network in 2003 after parent volunteers realized they wanted to engage the whole community in solutions.
PEN provides opportunities for connection, relationship building, and provision of research based, best practice information on preventing high risk behavior and building community. It uses the 40 Developmental Assets created by the Search Institute, and other strength-based approaches. PEN is committed to inclusiveness and cultural competency as well as reaching out to the entire community.
Parent volunteers provide leadership and implementation in coordination with community partners and collaborators. PEN offers education, resources, coaching, facilitation, and engagement opportunities that build parent skills, relationships, and sustainability. Hundreds of parents and community members have attended PEN events, and rate their experience and skill-building very highly. 80% of BVSD schools participate with PEN through Team Leaders and School Volunteers, who take ideas into action through parent discussions, distribution of information, parent mentoring, displays, book clubs, and other activities.

ENVISION a community where ALL of our families and youth are THRIVING

  • Engage the full diversity of our region’s parents, students, and school communities
  • Educate and develop effective parenting skills which promote social-emotional and mental well-being of youth
  • Empowers parents and caring adults to advocate for and support ALL youth