By Charles Hallman
A single father of five children, Jerron Riley also finds time to volunteer in his community. Dinella Mason, a single mother of a teenage son, works with teens. Both were among 16 local parents honored February 25 at the State Capitol as part of National Parent Leadership Month.
Created to educate the public on the importance of strengthening families and communities, the recognition encourages professionals, policymakers and other community members to partner with parents in addressing issues that affect children and families.
The 16 parents, all nominated by community organizations, were honored not only for their parenting but also for providing leadership at the state or national level. The hour-long ceremony was cosponsored by Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota (PCAMN), a nonprofit organization established in 1979 that provides child abuse and neglect prevention efforts to Minnesota families, child abuse prevention workers and volunteers.
PCAMN also sponsors the Circle of Parents program. “I have been involved [with PCAMN] for two years,” said State Representative Rena Moran (D-St. Paul). “We have parents from Hennepin, Ramsey and other counties…from African Americans males to Native [Americans] and Latinos. We look at strengthening families and our communities, and we do that from the perspective that it is about all of us.
“Congratulations to our parents for your work and your commitment to creating a change in your community,” continued Moran as she and Minnesota Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon formally recognized the honorees. “You are a great asset to Minnesota for being in your children’s life and for your volunteering in your community,” added Prettner Solon.
“I’m very positive with my son and the kids I work with,” said Mason as she accepted her plaque. “In raising a young man by myself, I have a network. My network is parents, his teachers, my family, his family, and I’m encouraged every day when I see him and see his grades. He’s a sophomore and has a 3.8 GPA.”
Black parents, whether in single- or two-parent households, often do not get enough credit for what they do, Mason believes. “I’m honored because not enough African American parents are commended. For the parents who are doing a good job and standing behind our kids, encouraging our kids, I think this is a great forum for it. This needs to happen more often than it does.”
Riley said Black professionals need to be more involved as well. “We need to see some of the Black lawyers, doctors, school teachers — our Black youth need that so we can help uplift each other and keep our community together.”
“It’s a great feeling just to know that we have young African American men that have taken time to give back to the community,” said Kelly Brown of Young Dads Program. He nominated Riley and two other fathers who were honored. “A lot of those young guys out here in the community don’t have father figures, so when you got a man that is willing to dedicate his time away from his family to give joy back to these kids, I think it is a great thing.”
The Young Dads program helps fathers such as him “to stay strong and uplifted,” said Riley. “The reason why I joined the Young Dads is because I knew that I needed help.”
In addition to raising his five children, he also co-coaches the Rice Street Clippers youth basketball team in St. Paul. “We’re just trying to get some youth together and keep them all the way up through high school,” Riley explained.
Moran, a first-term legislator and mother of seven children, admitted, “As a mother, I wanted to become more engaged not only for myself, but also for my kids, my community, and for my school. Sometimes it was hard, but once you do it, you realize that you are really creating something for yourself.”
“I’m proud of the other parents [honored],” said Mason, who works at a charter school in North Minneapolis and is in college studying for a master’s degree. “It’s good to know that you are not by yourself.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.