ATLANTA, Ga. (WTOC) - Of all the places Michael O’Neal has taken the Parent University concept lately, today he is where he has wanted to be all along.
“The opportunity to go to Atlanta is a fulfillment.”
O’Neal is in the state’s capital today, meeting with potential partners for a Parent U chapter to teach parents there to be their child’s first teacher. They’re having success with a chapter in Pensacola, Florida and have had discussions in Flint, Michigan and Chicago. But going to one of the nation’s largest cities would be the next step to making Savannah’s homegrown instrument of social change a national organization.
“It just seems appropriate that, with the largest city in Georgia, with a population very similar to the one we serve in Savannah that we’ll be going there to serve those citizens, I am not sure that 15 years ago we were ready to go to a place like Atlanta. But today, I know Atlanta will be as prosperous for us as any place in the country. It just feels like it’s the right time.”
Partners and resources could make for a quick rollout in Atlanta. Former entertainment industry agent Solomon Smallwood has offered to operate the Parent U chapter through his Solomon’s Temple Foundation Women and Children’s Shelter - and the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, which is chaired by the wife of Falcons owner Arthur Blank, is also onboard.
“What we have in Atlanta is, we have lots of stakeholders that are positioning themselves to support us. But just as with anything, the next stage will be talking to large numbers of parents and asking what Parent University looks like in your neighborhood?”
Expansion to other cities will not take away from what Parent U does here, but rather would shine a bigger, brighter light on Savannah.
“Savannah will always be the learning site. Savannah has a 20-year head start on any community we go to, so every community will be looking at how we’re doing in Savannah.”
And O’Neal believes the concept that has guided families here for two decades can work anywhere - even everywhere.
“The times have made some of the parents and some of the institutions more ready to receive something a little different, So, this is our time, and we’re ready to jump into the water.”