Family University offers parenting skills to community

Augusta School District event teaches techniques and strategies to parents

Raquel Dorf

Dr. Gideonsen of UW-Health giving a talk called “Talking to your children about the birds and the bees.”
Dr. Gideonsen of UW-Health giving a talk called “Talking to your children about the birds and the bees.”

Being a parent can sometimes be confusing and chaotic, and as the expression goes, “Kids don’t come with an instruction manual.” That’s why the Augusta School District and the Healthy Schools Grant Team paired up to offer free parenting classes for community members.

“Family University” was held Sunday, Feb 21, at Augusta High School. More than 100 participants came from both within and outside the Augusta School District to learn about effective parenting techniques and strategies. 

“(Family University) is a conference for parents and community members to learn more things about parenting but other things too, such as health and wellness, financial wellness, and career planning,” said Jen Willms, the school district’s community partnership coordinator. “This event is about learning, but it’s also about gathering together as a community and having fun.”

After hearing from a keynote speaker, participants broke out into smaller interactive workshops of their choice. Workshop topics ranged from “Parenting in the digital age” and “Talking to your kids about the birds and the bees” to “Healthy snacks” and “Career help for parents.” Presentations from speakers from UW-Eau Claire, Chippewa Valley Technical College, local hospitals, and banking institutions were geared towards giving participants tools and skills they can implement immediately.

Nicole Steinmetz, dean of students at Augusta Elementary, said she hopes parents will take away all they can from the workshops. “I don’t think you can have enough information about how to parent,” she said. “(Family University) is really just resources for parents to be successful.”

The idea for Family University came from a similar workshop held in Neillsville. The Augusta School District decided to bring that event to the community and tailor it to fit Augusta’s specific needs.

Augusta community members even chose the topics that were discussed at the event.  “We gathered a group of local parents and community members and organizations and asked them, ‘What types of topics do you think parents or people in general would like to learn about?’ ” Willms said.  The Augusta School District looked at the ideas thrown out at the brainstorming session, narrowed them down, and contacted qualified people in the community to give talks on those topics.

“Family University” featured free child care.
“Family University” featured free child care.

Parent and educator Brent Dickinsen attended the event and thought it was worthwhile. “It is a valuable event for people to listen and learn,” he said. “I attended because I was curious on how to deal with issues that kids have.” Dickinsen took workshops about risky behaviors and depression in teens and learned how to apply the information he learned in his daily life.

Kerry Vance, a parent from the Neillsville school district, also attended the event. “The workshops were good, reassuring, and informative,” she said.  “I can always use more skills to help with parenting.”

Steinmetz said she hopes parents were all able to add more tools to their toolboxes after the workshops. “We will know if this day is successful if parents have at least one takeaway from today that they can go back home and implement it with their kids,” she said.

The event came together with help from the whole community, and Augusta school officials thanked everyone who made Family University a success.  “We can’t do something like this unless we have all the pieces, from the staff that helped out to all the businesses and vendors to presenters to childcare providers,” Steinmetz said.

The Augusta School District hopes Family University becomes an annual event, and wants to make it even bigger next year.

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