Baylor network engages parents

Courtesy Photo

Rewon Shimray | Reporter

Baylor Parents Network provides opportunities for students’ parents to be better engaged in campus life and resources. Director Gail Offringa said Parents Network seeks to be the “on-campus liaison” for parents. The organization operates across 80 chapters across the U.S., including two in China.

Some of the biggest events Parents Network organizes are send-off parties for incoming freshmen from July 7 to Aug. 12. Offringa describes the send-off parties as an “initial launching into what can help them help their students.”

Kristi Coleman, mother of Oak Cliff senior Corrie Coleman, said she began hosting send-off parties six to seven years ago out of a desire to help first-generation students and their families.

“We are there to reassure [parents] that they’re placing their children in good hands,” Coleman said.

Coleman, along with 81 other volunteers, host send-off parties for newly enrolled Baylor freshmen. These events are an opportunity to ask questions, learn about campus resources and form relationships with other parents.

Katie Matthews, now the Parents Program Specialist, was originally a recipient of the Parents Network’s resources. During her senior year, she was unsure if she was going to be able to graduate on time. Matthews and her mom were able to contact the Parents Network to create a plan for reaching graduation. Matthews graduated in May and was hired in September.

Matthews said the Parents Network can be contacted through any of their social media sites on Facebook or Instagram, email or phone. Offringa said the Parents Network seeks to “bring Baylor to the parents.” Event announcements are posted on these platforms.

Matthews said parents who provide up-to-date contact information will receive live updates and invitations for events.

“We give out our phone numbers to parents, and they’ll call us. We love that. I’ll spend my whole day on the phone talking to parents, and it’s probably my favorite part of the job,” Matthews said. “We hope parents will call us like nobody’s business and ask their questions and connect with us.”

Offringa said one of the main objectives of Parents Network is to connect parents with each other. She also said parents have told her these meetings have become parents’ favorite day of the month because of the support they gain from other parents.

“It is a wonderful way to find support while going through this crazy thing of college,” Offringa said. “We’re used to raising our kids in grade school and knowing what they’re doing, but when they get to college, we’re not. That’s the biggest adjustment for everyone, but this us a really good way of … helping people navigate this part of their lives.”

Throughout the school year, Parents Network chapters meet once a month for prayer meetings. Coleman said they pray openly, integrating the list of requests from the Parents Network. For example, Coleman said they prayed for good health during flu season.

“I hope these students know how much they’re showered in love and prayer by these parents all over the country,” Matthews said.

Offringa said that although there many universities have similar parents organizations, Baylor is the only one she knows that has a prayer network.

“We could not have these wonderful send off parties or prayer meetings if it were not for the fantastic parents that are willing to host them,” Offringa said. “They are so faithful and dedicated to making Baylor better.”

Parents also volunteer at college fairs, the parents orientation dinner and on campus to act as an advocate for the university.

“It’s that way Baylor goes above and beyond of what you’d expect a university to do to help your student succeed,” Coleman said. “I am just amazed that Baylor goes that extra mile to make us feel like family.”