Partner Profile: Parents for Diversity

Parents for Diversity (P4D) is an Ottawa-based collective of parents and allies who share a commitment to protecting every child’s right to an education that is free from discrimination. 


Founded in 2016 by three women of colour, who recognized a lack of representation in their children’s schools, P4D is now operated by two part time staff members and a volunteer board of directors. Staff member and Parent Advocate, Alexandra Arraiz, highlights that the group is currently all women and primarily women of colour. “I am very proud to work here as we are a small team, made up of mostly all volunteers, who get a lot done! This speaks to the passion and commitment that every person brings to the table.”


Advocating for equitable and inclusive learning environments that allow children to fulfill their full potential, P4D engages with schools and families to promote and implement equity and inclusive education. Their vision, “…is that within each learning environment, each child feels that they belong, are valued for who they are, and that they have equal access to rigorous, meaningful, and joyful learning.”


Alexandra says that much of P4D’s work, in collaboration with schools, families and communities, falls under the categories of awareness, education, expertise and advocacy. As a collective, P4D creates awareness in the community about the societal implications of racism, intolerance and discrimination in the education system. In her role as a Parent Advocate, Alexandra provides a first point of contact for parents. “I am here to support parents with questions about the school system. These can be questions about experiences with racism in school or questions about their child’s learning path. I am also here for brainstorming or to attend meetings if they wish.”  


P4D’s Parent 2 Parent Peer Advocate Training (P2P) program offers tools and strategies to equip caregivers and families when navigating the educational system and advocating for children who experience discrimination or bias in schools. With goals like building capacity, attendees are encouraged to share what they have learned with their own communities. Soon to be offered in partnership with OCDSB, the program is offered twice a year and open to parents across the city.


A long-running Parent Workshop Series brings almost monthly opportunities for the parents and caregivers of Black children to engage with board staff, subject matter experts, and other parents in order to share experiences and resources on topics related to education. The next workshop, put together by parents from the P2P training program on the topic of High School Selection, will be hosted on the evening of February 29, 2024. 


Seeing a rise in need for P4D’s service, including more requests for one-on-one support, and an unfortunate increase in reports of racism in schools, Alexandra says that there has also been a demand for more workshops, including interest from other racialized families. 


Working in collaboration with all four school boards and other community organizations, 

Alexandra notes that although many of the same barriers remain in the educational system, there are now more tools for support. “Families are seeing that they don’t have to put up with it and can ask for more. It also helps to have leadership in schools that are more aware and willing to take on difficult conversations. Principals are now referring families to us which is great. We are very intentional in our goal to support the parents the best way we can in collaboration with the schools.” 


With P4D as a partner, OCYI also benefits from Alexandra’s expertise as a member of the Ottawa Collaborative for Parenting Support task group. “The first meeting that I attended was very focussed on community organizations across the spectrum. I really liked this cross sector and looking at how we can use this strength to reach families and benefit them in different ways.”


Agreeing with OCYI, that is it important to support kids and youth in growing up great, Alexandra adds that it is also important to help them to live great now. “We can support them in this by listening to what they are saying and taking care of them holistically. This means looking at how we take care of families too. Because if the parents are not okay, the kids are not okay!” In an effort to promote that all important parent-child connection around joyful learning, P4D is launching a new initiative this year called “P4D About Town”. These gatherings will feature children’s books being read aloud and a chance for parents to meet and greet and enjoy time with their children and one another. The first occasion will be Sunday, February 25th. Stay tuned to the website for more details as to time and place. 


A visit to the Parent for Diversity website also reveals a wealth of resources including a diversity library, anti-racism collection and workshop resources for home or the classroom. Just in time for Black History Month, P4D has launched an updated and interactive version of its Periodic Table of Black Canadian History. Click here to discover this unique and creative educational tool: https://parentsfordiversity.com/periodic-table-of-black-canadian-history/


This story is part of the February 2024 Ovation. This story is also available in French.