Catherine Jones, Illinois PTA Chicago Region Director and Austin resident has dedicated her life to advocacy. | Shanel Romain

While attending an event on youth violence, Catherine Jones struck up a conversation with me about the importance of parents being involved in the lives of their children. Jones, who is the Illinois PTA Chicago Region Director and longtime local school council member at Frederick Douglass Academy High School, expressed her passion for advocating for students.

On what prompted her involvement:

I’ve been in Austin for over 45 years and I’ve been advocating for the children in the community.

My oldest son is 40 years old and I started PTA and the local school council back in the 1980s when he was in elementary school with James Dean and Rev. Flowers.

We were trained by James Dean and I’ve been doing it ever since. My sons have grown and moved away.

My oldest son went to Austin High School and everyone said that was a bad school. My son graduated from there in 2000 and is a college graduate. He’s in Georgia now and doing good. He was on the basketball team and his banner is in the auditorium at the school. Ever since then, I’ve just been advocating for children. I love the Austin area; I’ve been here since I was 16 years old.

I was a district director and now I’m a regional director for Belmont Cragin up north and DuSable south.

The importance of advocacy:

If we don’t advocate for our children then who’s going to do it? We have to advocate for ourselves.

When my kids were in school, they didn’t have to tell me to get involved. I was involved because I wanted to know what my kids were learning. If they’re bad or something, let me know. I didn’t have a problem with it if the school would call me.

How do you encourage parents to get involved?

First, we have to educate them and let them know they have power. You are your child’s first teacher. It’s your legal right to know what’s going on in the school. Get on the local school council. You are the ones who pass the budget. We see the budget as elected officials.  Parents need to know this. I guess some of them have lost the adrenaline because some of them aren’t welcomed in certain schools. I know that for a fact because I’m there and know what’s going on.