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2009 News Releases

Longwood forms Parents Council

February 16, 2009

Longwood University has formed a Parents Council that will help with events and provide financial support to benefit student life.

The Parents Council will provide volunteers and support for ongoing activities such as Orientation and Family Weekend, and its member families will make financial contributions that will be used by the council to award grants to students and student groups in the areas of citizen leadership, academic achievement, and university enhancement. The minimum contribution is $500 per family each year their child is enrolled. Some 18 families attended the first meeting Jan. 31.

"We've tapped into something that will be valuable for both parents and students," said Dr. Ken Perkins, executive assistant to the president for student success, who is coordinating the Parents Council. "It's off to a resoundingly good start, judging from enthusiasm and contributions. At the recent meeting, I heard some of the most moving remarks in praise of, and support for, Longwood that I've heard in my 25 years here."

The Parents Council is chaired by Jim and Gay Aridas of Virginia Beach, whose daughter, Sara, is a Longwood junior. Mr. and Mrs. Aridas have been involved with the Parents Council at the University of North Carolina, from which another daughter graduated, since 2002.

"We have seen how much the involvement of parents can benefit a university," said Jim Aridas. "We hope to help make the Longwood Parents Council an effective partner the university can employ to continue making the Longwood experience an enjoyable one for students and parents."

The organization evolved from an initiative by a Student Success team. "The team wanted to engage parents but didn't know what form it would take," Perkins said. "We knew, however, that harnessing the energy of parents would help with the retention of students."

Nine months ago Perkins sent a survey to all parents of Longwood students. Some 1,200 surveys were returned. "The results of the survey supported the view that parents desired a stronger relationship with Longwood, especially better communication," Perkins said. "A question at the end of the survey, about contacting us if interested in working with a parents' group, attracted a sizable number of responses."

One couple who read the survey were the Aridas', with whom Perkins met. He and Dr. Kerstin Soderlund, dean of students, later visited the UNC Parents Council in Chapel Hill for a day. "The UNC Parents Council, which is 25 years old, has been extremely helpful to us in sharing things," Perkins said.

The Longwood Parents Council is working to develop a grants process. The next meeting, tentatively set for March 28, will focus on bylaws and setting up teams, three of which are envisioned: events planning, first year experience and transitions, and communications with parents.

"We eventually would like about 10 families per class, a total of about 40 families," said Perkins. "The Parents Council is financially self-sustaining; it doesn't cost the university any money.

"What these parents can do for Longwood is invaluable in retention and reputation," he added. "They can make a long-lasting contribution to our student life. I don't think I've ever been involved in anything more important during my time here."