Key Initiatives

Areas of Excellence

While PEN will always support our volunteers in providing a wide range of educational programs to their school community, our leadership team is also focused on three key initiatives.

Involving Parents in Drug & Alcohol Prevention

Pen’s roots are in educating and providing resources around substance use / abuse. Begining in the Fall of 2017, PEN decided to take a more systemmic approach to serving youth and families in this area.  We addressed the Opioid Epidemic by hosting a presentation focused on creating awareness and de-stigmatizing use. Over200 peopole attended, and we plan to provide this on an ongoing basis.  PEN is also hosting events to educate parents on how to talk to their children about drugs and alcohol at different ages.

To build our own capacity, PEN staff and volunteers participated in trainings that support  best practice around prevention strategies, and methods for engaging parents in substance abuse prevention.  As part of our efforts to involve parents, we developed a parent sub-coalition within the Public Health Department’s Healthy Futures Coalition. Finally, we collaborated with students from the University of Colorado’s – Boulder. They developed marketing campaigns  campaigns that can be used to create parent readiness for the implementation of effective prevention models in our community.

Building Strong Family-School Partnerships

Building parent capacity is critical, as there is clear evidence that parents play a fundamental role in their child’s ability to do well in school and in life. That is why PEN works with parents to strengthen family – school partnerships, and provide support and education around issues that impact families well-being.  We train our Parents as Leaders in Schools (PEN PALS) in a variety of areas, including (1) applying the National PTA standards for parent engagement (an 8-session curriculum we developed), (2) implementing our existing programs, including book groups, creating a welcoming environment and parent transition programs, (3) identifying and building relationships with allies who help them bring services to their schools, and (4) hosting parent education events that support the needs of individual school communities.

Currently, we have a PEN PAL in about 67% of schools. We would like to see this number grow to 100%.  When it comes to strengthening family-school partnership, we are uniquely positioned to support the implementation of programs that help the District’s Director of Parent and Family Partnerships, and the Colorado Department of Education, in meeting state mandated goals. In fact, we have been contacted by communities across the country who want to implement a model like PEN has in their district. We see a future where the PEN Model is fully developed, protected, validated, and replicable in other communities.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety

PEN has learned that stress and anxiety are both the source, and the consequence, of many issues facing youth & families. Therefore, one of the best ways we can support parent’s overall health and well-being is to provide information and strategies for managing life’s challenges. In 2017, we hosted a half-day symposium with a keynote speaker, several 20-minute experiential breakout sessions and resource tables. In 2018, our Stress & Anxiety Symposium is a full-day event with breakfast, a keynote, a 1 ½ hour workshop in the morning, lunch, two 1-hour workshops in the afternoon, and a closing ceremony. Each of the workshop times has multiple topic to choose from, ensuring attendees that they can select workshops that meet their needs and interests.  Participants have access to resource tables, childcare, interpretation, 6 CEU seat credits, and some workshops that are delivered in Spanish. Scholarship tickets are available through the registration page. We can see this expanding to an annual 2-day conference in the future.

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