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NYU Metro Center Wins $1 million Spencer Foundation Grant to Study the Benefits of Parent Organizing for Children

The Spencer Foundation has awarded the NYU Metro Center’s Center for Policy, Research and Evaluation a $1 million Lyle Spencer Award to study how children and families learn and thrive when parents and family members belong to parent leadership and organizing groups. Dr. Joanna Geller, Director of the Center for Policy Research and Evaluation, will serve as Principal Investigator, alongside Co-PIs, Dr. Jennifer E. Cossyleon, and Dr. Fabienne Doucet. 

This project was born from parent leaders sharing stories about how belonging to parent leadership and organizing groups benefit their children. We have heard how children gain the confidence, knowledge, and skills to also fight for social, economic, and racial justice; how children thrive when they are surrounded by a community of powerful and loving adult supporters and mentors; and how parent organizers take greater pride in their racial identity, their immigration history, and their languages–and how they share this pride with their children. 

Through this research, we will explore these phenomena in greater depth, illustrating how parents of color contribute to their children’s learning and thriving in ways that go beyond traditional ideas of family engagement. The team will first conduct a field scan to identify parent leadership and organizing groups throughout the U.S. We will then purposefully select six of these groups for in-depth case study research, prioritizing diversity in geography, demographics, and issue areas (e.g. educational justice, disability justice, economic justice). 

The PIs are grateful to the following individuals for their contributions to the proposal process: Danielle Asher, Vito Borrello, Huiying Chan, Anne Henderson, Kate Gill Kressley, Sara McAlister, Lynda Parmely, Dr. Danielle Perry, Dr. Wendy Perez, Kwesi Rollins, Ada Sanchez, Silvia Taylor, Dr. Michelle Renée Valladares, and Dr. Siomara Valladares. We are also deeply appreciative of the excellent anonymous reviewers for the Spencer Foundation and to the Spencer Foundation staff and board.

Please contact Joanna Geller at with questions about the study.