ACEA's Family Involvement Conference provided togetherness and fun for Atlantic City families. From left: Students Ni'Shiyah McKinney and Nalani Davis, teacher Camika Holland, student Lamia Davis, and ACEA FAST Coordinator Nina Garrett.
The Atlantic City Education Association teamed up with the NJEA Families and Schools Together Work for Children (FAST) program to present its first Family Involvement Conference to about 65 families on Nov. 15. The event’s theme “Strengthening the Family Unit” held true with organizers providing a busy day filled with nonstop activity for families, top-notch speakers for parents, and lasting memories for all.
A jumbo-sized puzzle carpeted a sizable portion of the gymnasium at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Complex where the event was held. The rest of the room accommodated 10 “Creation Stations,” where families engaged in activities designed to promote healthy and productive interactions and foster collaborative problem-solving skills. Face painters and balloon artists added a vibrant splash color to the day.
“Today’s activities will provide you with quality time with your children,” said ACEA President Marcia Genova in her opening remarks. “This is a time when the whole family will not only have fun together, but will have an opportunity to use each other’s special skills and strengths in solving problems as a team.”
Nina Garrett, ACEA vice president and PRIDE chairperson, acknowledged that the conference could not have come at a better time. The recent closure of three casinos resulted in a loss of 8,500 jobs. Many stressed parents now find themselves at home anxious for the future.
“So many parents have worked countless hours, sometimes at two or even three jobs, just to provide for the basic needs of their children,” Garrett said. “Their efforts to provide the minimal necessities have eroded the amount of quality time families spend together.”
Later in the day, The DJ Mickey G Show entertained the children while the parents attended workshops.
Annmarie Carter, the director of a residential facility for mentally challenged adult substance abusers, talked to mothers about the importance of parents being honest about their own childhoods with their children.
“No one ever told me that I could bounce back from a mistake,” she said. She lamented that had her mother told her that, she may have made different choices.
Solomon Jones, an author, spoken-word artist and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, addressed the fathers. He recounted his path from beginning his writing career at a homeless shelter to his current record of success.
“I had to get myself together,” Jones said. “I had to get to a point where I wanted to do for me. Because what we have to realize as men, as fathers, as dads, is that you can’t do anything for your kids if you can’t do anything for yourself.”