Issues surrounding the safety of students are expected to be the primary focus of a 16-year-old parent workshop that will take place in Hampton Bays, starting Jan. 26.
"With the recent tragedy in Newtown, I think that school safety is an issue that is on parents' minds," said Denise Quintyne, director of Parent Leadership Initiative/ Parent Leadership Training Institute, which is run by the 26-year-old nonprofit Child Care Council of Suffolk.
Each year, the Child Care Council of Suffolk asks Southampton parents to participate in the workshop, which runs for 17 weeks and provides them with tools to take control of their communities and resolve issues close to their hearts.
In the past, Quintyne said, parents have worked to find solutions to gang violence by creating dance programs that build self-esteem, and solutions to blight by empowering parents to take on beautification projects.
Parents in Southampton, she said, have successfully brought a number of projects to fruition, including an African-American museum, a male mentoring program, a playground refurbishment and the creation of a safety zone at a Head Start school.
"We train parents to become advocates and leaders in their community," Quintyne said.
Parents know the issues in their communities, she said, but often times they don't know how to go about addressing them.
During the program, Quintyne said parents can talk about issues, and then are taught what steps can be taken to address them.
"We talk to them about access to resources in the community, who they need to talk to and how their local government works," she said.
Ultimately at the end of the program, parents are able take on any issue and work to resolve it.
Quintyne said the program first started 22 years ago in Huntington and has since expanded to four other towns, including Southampton, Islip, Brookhaven and Babylon.
The free program only requires commitment from parents, who are treated to dinner at each session. Parents are also welcome to bring their children, who will also be served dinner and cared for by staff of the Child Care Council of Suffolk, which, aside from offering parenting programs, offers child care references and inspections.
This year's Southampton training will kick off on Jan. 26 at the Southampton Head Start on 271 Flanders Road in Riverhead. The first session will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m with the following sessions through May to take place Thursday evenings from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hampton Bays Senior Center.
To apply to participate in the program, call 631-462-0303 ext. 160.