Our Students Deserve Better: The Nashville P.R.O.P.E.L. Success Story
“If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” This Chinese proverb is embodied in the work of Nashville PROPEL, a parent-led organization dedicated to equipping Metro Nashville Public Schools parents with the knowledge and tools to demand a world-class education for all.
An abbreviation for “Parents Requiring Our Public Education System to Lead”, Nashville PROPEL is committed to educating parents and grandparents, particularly in Black and Brown communities, about the state of their local schools and of the larger education landscape. They do this by prioritizing conversations around student and school data, aiming to answer the question: what should a good school look like? The organization helps to train and support parents so they can feel confident in advocating for their children. “We’re not into convincing people. We do want to provide the knowledge and have them make informed decisions,” said the organization’s Executive Director, Sonya Thomas.
Parents who are willing and ready to take action are encouraged to join the movement via the Fellowship, a 6-week program that provides education on the history of Nashville’s public schools, the landscape today, and how parents can advocate for improvement. As part of the effort, participants are encouraged to attend school board meetings, press conferences, and other public events so that their voices can be heard.
Just this year, PROPEL has built 900 unique relationships with parents in the Nashville Community. Nearly 400 parents have completed training sessions with Nashville PROPEL and 80 parents have graduated from PROPEL’s public advocacy fellowship. Since its founding in 2018, PROPEL has gained not only local attention, but also statewide and national recognition. Although Sonya Thomas says the organization’s most significant accomplishment has been its ability to amplify local parent voices, the organization is also proud to have been featured on APM Reports “What the Words Say”, BET’s “Disrupt and Dismantle” and the NBC Nightly News, among other media outlets!
PROPEL is committed to organizing and developing parent leaders that will advocate for equitable education practices and policies in Nashville public education. The Scarlett Family Foundation is proud to support the work of an organization that empowers families and so clearly shares the belief that every student in Nashville deserves access to a high-quality education, no matter their zip code.