THE BLOG
04/03/2014 05:25 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2014

Primary School Teaching Parents? How ParentJobNet impacts low-income families through adult learning and entrepreneurship

What happens when low-earning adults leave the workforce to raise a child? ParentJobNet is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that empowers New York City public school parents by providing programs and services that facilitate their reentry to the professional world.

Pat Craddick founded ParentJobNet "PJN" 9 years ago after leaving a career in finance to raise her daughter, Christina. While volunteering at P.S. 87 Elementary School on the Upper West Side, she found frustrated, under- or unemployed parents, disconnected from the workforce.

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Her solution? ParentJobNet, a nonprofit stationed in public schools, providing job readiness, English as a Second Language (ESL), financial literary, job placement services and more to parents seeking to refresh and restart their careers.

At ParentJobNet, we understand that helping parents become financially stable leads to more constructive lives for families. We know the correlation between employment, financial success and a stable home, which supports school-age children and their bright futures.


Through the connection of Diana Davis Spencer, one of NFTE's most generous supporters, PJN and NFTE are working to partner in New York City! I sat down with Pat, and she shared her journey, as well as tips for aspiring social entrepreneurs and new careerists.

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Steve Mariotti: Tell me about ParentJobNet (PJN).
Pat Craddick:
PJN started in 2004 as an online job portal and resource center for parents at PS 87 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A year later, the organization expanded to PS 84 a few blocks away. There, we offered ESL and other workforce programs.

PJN then expanded to 4 districts, offering workforce programs in 26 schools. We soon realized we'd spread too thin, and scaled back to only cover schools in District 3--from 55th Street on the west side of Manhattan up to 123rd in Harlem.

By focusing on one district, we plan to build a "local district model" in partnership with schools and local businesses that is replicable. Many schools outside of the district are waitlisted for the program.

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We set a few key educational practices, and have since worked to perfect them. Most of these parents, often immigrants, have creative skill-sets (baking, sewing, arts & crafts, etc.), but they are not sure how to implement them. We introduce an entrepreneurial lesson plan, and some of them go on to start their own businesses.

The impacts have been incredible--since establishing in 2004, we've helped over 7,500 low-income parents of NYC public school children. Some of the people we've helped have come back to volunteer and even work.

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We believe that, when we invest in low-income parents, we invest in their children's capacity to have a full and productive life that contributes to society in a positive way.

SM: What is your involvement with PJN?
PC:
As Founder and Executive Director for 9 years, I, with the help of grassroots parents, developed the organization. I recently became the Board Chair of PJN, and am also full-time at NYU working towards my Masters in Nonprofit Philanthropy.

SM: How is your work different from other job placement organizations?
PC:
We are the only non-profit organization working in public schools, partnering with key stakeholders and Parent Coordinators to connect unemployed or underemployed parents to our school-based workforce programs and services. We partner with Title I schools (low-income) and rely on Parent Coordinators who lead initiatives to meet the needs of their respective school community.

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We focus on creating deep, long-lasting relationships with public schools and local businesses, we also meet individually with parents, conveniently after drop-off hours, to offer resume help, job connections and other economic resources.

In addition to public schools and CBOs, we partner with many businesses in the community--TD Bank, Starbucks, Chase, Fidelity, HSBC and several others here in Manhattan who give us in-kind and financially support. We utilize their space for both peer-to-peer and business networking, which has proved hugely successful over the years.

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SM: Who is your target demographic? PC: Although we work with all parents from various demographics, we specifically focus on low-income single female heads of households, because those are the people who need our help the most. SM: Can you share tips for low-income parents working to reenter the workforce? PC: Here are a few:
  1. Seek professional help to update your resume. Parents describe more confidence in their abilities when they do.
  2. Find out what your parental and transferrable skills are worth in the workforce.
  3. Create a LinkedIn account.
  4. Look for free resources in your local schools (ParentJobNet) or neighborhoods for ongoing support.
  5. Keep a positive attitude.
  6. Stay active in your job search and connect to the people you know.
  7. Relationships are extremely important--people connect people to jobs.

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SM: Can you share tips for aspiring entrepreneurs interested in founding a nonprofit?
PC:
It's rewarding to see the accomplishments of ParentJobNet, but it took us a long time to get here. Like the saying goes, "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." That's true for me.

  1. This is the second enterprise I founded, and through my experiences, I've learned that you need to be able to work 50-60 hour weeks, have the skills, work ethic and diligence to persist and persevere.
  2. It's really rewarding, yet challenging; isn't an overnight success.
  3. Create a business plan with short and long-term strategies.
  4. Start small and build within your capacity.
  5. Don't be tempted to expand beyond your capacity too early.
  6. Ask for help and establish partnerships.
  7. Be prepared for the many ups and downs

In the end, you'll see that with a great product or service idea, it's well worth the effort.

Special thanks to Maya Horgan for assistance crafting this article.