The Parent Engagement Network's (PEN) mission is to "Support parents in raising healthy, happy youth." PEN has recognized parents as the key to building strong families with thriving youth since 2001.
PEN works with Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) parents, guardians, teachers, school and district administration and caring adults with a vision to create a community in which all adults and youth can thrive.
PEN started in 2001 when parents, schools, and community organizations came together to address high levels of substance use, depression and suicide identified in local youth.
Shortly after the initial call to action, PEN was created to work more intentionally with parents to build protective factors known to impact child outcomes and reduce risky behavior. They continued to host an annual calendar of speaking events, and built a robust team of volunteer parent leaders in the schools.
Those parent leaders are supported in their own parenting, and trained to work with administrators to address the unique needs of their school. PEN leadership works with over 50 collaborators to support volunteers in implementing programs such as the parent mentor & transition program, as well as speakers, workshops, documentaries, book groups, and coffee talks.
PEN established as a non-profit in 2009, and remained volunteer led until 2014 when they hired an executive director to refine their work and increase sustainability.
Today, PEN programs are categorized as prevention (e.g., communication, relationship building, etc.), risk-taking (e.g., substance use, sexting, etc.), and preparation (e.g., transitions, financial literacy, etc.). Within these categories, all programming fits into one of our 5 key initiatives: substance use/abuse prevention, stress & anxiety, raising children in a digital age, building resilient families, and
creating strong family-school partnerships.
I love PEN because they come from a strength-based approach that understands that all parents are the best parents they know how to be. This is an empowering place to stand! PEN celebrates with parents when the river runs smoothly, and hold them up when the waves get rocky. I know firsthand, as PEN and its wonderful people were there to support me in raising my own kids who are now grown. PEN activities provide a place for parents, professionals and youth to gather, have fun, listen to experts, and share and learn from one another. I invite you to participate in some of our activities and share PEN with the parents at your school. Together we can raise our children in a community that is safe, supportive, and nurturing to all of our youth and families.
--Paula Nelson, PEN Board Chair
PEN's mission is to "Engage, educate and empower parents in developing the social-emotional, physical, & mental health, wellbeing and safety of youth, families and communities." In order to fulfill on this mission, PEN has brought on some exceptional talent in the past year. These individuals will be a huge contribution to helping PEN move forward in providing the best service we can to Boulder Valley families. In addition to continuing community-wide programs and activities and building individual PEN School Teams, PEN will be expanding the offerings over the next three years based on our recently developed 3 year business plan.
----Dr. Shelly Mahon, PEN Executive Director
Our ongoing challenge is to fundraise to sustain the growth we are experiencing and to meet the many requests we have to share our model with communities outside the Boulder Valley School District. As we expand our outreach we are also expanding our support from individual donors and businesses. We are excited to see how much further we will grow this year!
"While working with my son's PEN school team, I found that all parents speak the language of wanting the best for their kids. This universal language opens communication and support across barriers and is modeled by PEN volunteers." (Parent- PEN School Team Leader)
"Parents want to hear and learn from other parents. What have you done that worked? Sharing solutions saves time and resources and gives motivation and strength. Other parents have gone through the same things, what can we learn from each other?"(Parent- PEN Monthly Community Coaching)
"PEN reminds me of a sprinkler system: sharing positive influence through the community in overlapping patterns." BVSD Administrator
"The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) repeatedly shows that parents are the most important factor in youth decision-making. PEN continues to deliver outstanding programs and initiatives in our community that address the critical needs of supporting the social, emotional, physical and mental well-being of youth, families and communities. I am honored and committed to continue our work together and deepen the efforts to create a thriving community."
Boulder Valley School District Superintendent Bruce Messinger 2016 Letter to Principals
"Through a collaborative, community effort we have made strides to build a multicultural, multilingual team of parents involved in our school, and PEN has been an integral part of this development. My involvement with PEN has been beyond a positive experience of co-sharing with the leadership and volunteers, it is a co-generative experience based in inclusivity in which both organizations are striving to learn from one another in order to improve the lives of children and families in Boulder County. (Sanchez Elementary, Family Resource Coordinator)
"PEN is a natural partner in extending the work of the pilot project of the Boulder Safe Schools coalition to the parent community. PEN and BVSSC will together focus on parent training to educate and empower parents to talk with their students about respect for the rights of LGBTQ students and staff." Boulder Valley Safe Schools Coalition (BVSSC)
Parent comments following PEN community presentations and PEN School Team involvement:
"Our community is starving for parent connections."
"I thought I had a good relationship with my child, now I know I do, even though sometimes it doesn't feel like it."
"I found mentorship and acceptance with other parents" "It's great that parent concerns are no longer swept under the rug like they used to be."
"American culture is so individualistic; it's great to get to know other parents.
"What a relief to know I'm not alone."