Anise Walker, Parent & Board Member July 28, 2020 By wpengine What connects with me the most is the support that Friendship offers its families. I was raised as an only child, and Adria is my only child. This organization has wrapped its arms around my daughter and me. We’ve felt very supported throughout our years in the Friendship system. Can you talk about your experience at Friendship over the years – how long have you been involved with the school? I’ve been involved with Friendship since around 2005. I am currently a member of the board of trustees and my daughter is a senior at Friendship Collegiate. I started working at Friendship Woodridge as a mental health specialist through a partnership that they had with an organization called The Student Support Center. I worked at the Woodridge campus for four years and at Chamberlain for two. When it came time to enroll Adria in school, I made a conscious choice to enroll her at Friendship because I was impressed with its vision. She started there when she was 3 years old and will graduate this year. She’s a true Friendship “Lifer.” What connects with me the most is the support that Friendship offers its families. I was raised as an only child, and Adria is my only child. This organization has wrapped its arms around my daughter and me. We’ve felt very supported throughout our years in the Friendship system. I’ve had two strokes, one in 2012 and the second in 2013. The level of support and encouragement the Friendship staff provided was simply amazing. They checked in with me, sent flowers, and made sure I remained as engaged as I could be in my daughter’s education during my recovery. That’s another big reason why Friendship is like family to me. A lot of schools might offer initial communication after a situation like that, but Friendship was consistent with the opportunities and support it offered. The organization went above and beyond, without question. Can you talk about how you’ve been involved at your daughter’s schools and offer suggestions for busy parents who might want to get more involved? Make sure teachers and school leaders know you’re interested in hearing how your child is doing and about opportunities to support them, whether it’s via a quick email or text message. That’s essential. You don’t have to attend every school event. Just ask the teachers or school leader, “How can I support you? Is there a way you can livestream the event so I don’t have to miss it?” I started getting involved with Friendship by working with our first Director of Parent Relations, Gail Sivels. She was arranging parent engagement workshops on ways to help students be more successful. She’d give me an idea for a workshop, and I’d use what I knew as an educator to create one in family-friendly language. We went from campus to campus to offer these presentations. As the network got larger, we brought parents together in one space as a District PAC so we could learn from each other and explore what was working well on some campuses and what could be improved. Eventually, someone suggested that I be the parent representative on the board of trustees. I was thrilled to be considered, because I’m so very invested and impressed by Mr. Hense’s vision and mission for Friendship. When he asked me to join I said, “Yes, without question.” Is there a teacher who has stood out to you as doing a phenomenal job? I could name several. My daughter Adria is still closely connected to her 8th-grade science teacher, Jennifer Beckwith. Two other teachers that come to mind are Ashley Royal and Garry Cameron. Many Friendship teachers recognized her as more than just a kid in their classroom – they saw a whole person with struggles and concerns. They took the time to connect with her and reach out. Several staff members have also mentored her… Marcus and Alecia Thompson and Dr. Chakoria Wells come to mind. They have been amazing with Adria; they treat her as if she is their own. Carlos Richardson also stands out. His father was my mentor in college, and I’ve known Mr. Richardson since he was in 6th or 7th grade. I’m so blessed that Adria can know him as a committed educator and see his dedication to his students and how he’s an encouraging voice that students sometimes need if they don’t hear it from others in their lives. How has Adria responded to your involvement over the years? When she was younger, she was excited that her mom was involved. As she became a preteen, it was more like, “Oh, you’re still here?” She’s gotten used to the dichotomy of having an involved parent who is in a leadership-type position in the network that results in the light shining on her a little bit more, but still having to meet the same expectations as every other scholar at Friendship. When I was at the senior banquet for Collegiate last year, I was asked to introduce Friendship Lifers. True to form, Adria cheered for me and gave me a standing ovation. She’s always been my biggest fan. I have a bookbag that says, “I am my child’s role model.” I try to live that every day. I hope that in the future Adria will look back on these days and say, “My mom was one of the good ones. My mom really did stick by me.” You mentioned that you’ve been active at the city-wide level. You’ve won some awards. Can you talk about them? I’m currently a member of the My School DC Parent Advisory Committee, a Ward 8 representative for the Parents Amplify Voices in Education (PAVE) board, a Parent Organizer for the PAVE City-wide Board, and the Chair of the OSSE Parent Advisory Committee. Each of these roles offers me a different opportunity to elevate parents’ voice in the city and expand my role as an educator. These experiences also help me broaden my horizons as a life-long learner. I’m always going to a training, learning something new, or getting information I can offer to other parents. I want to help them understand that their voices are really important —especially together. One voice might move a few things here and there, but collective voices can move the world. I received a parent engagement award from Friendship about eight years ago; it popped up in my Facebook memories earlier this school year. That award was very special to me, as it was presented by Ms. Sivels, who was a treasured friend and mentor. We lost her to cancer a few years ago. There isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t think about her and the work we did together. She was so amazing! Three years ago, I was nominated by our current Director of Parent Relations, Charmayne Carter, for a Parent Leadership Excellence Award with the DC Public Charter School Board. Both awards were a total shock to me, because I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special or different. I’m just doing what’s good for my daughter, which means engaging with her school and sharing my knowledge with others. Do you have a fun fact you’d like to share? What people definitely know about me is that I’m a HUGE Prince fan. If there’s anything Prince-related, I’m very well versed in it. I have just about every piece of music he ever released, as well as some bootlegs. Some parents may have had their children listening to greats like Beethoven and Bach in utero or while growing up, but Adria was listening to Prince!