Jasper County Parent University has been in the minds of many Jasper County citizens since 1999. The idea was borrowed from neighboring Chatham County, Savannah, Georgia native, Michael O’Neal, who started his program from his garage in 1999. At that time, there was only one other known program in the Southeast United States that was in Macon, Georgia. Mr. O’Neal’s passion grew from the need of more parents getting involved in their child’s education and the promotion of the Search Institutes’ 40 Developmental Assets of children; this was the same need in Jasper.
In the Fall of 2001, Lillie Hall, founder, promoter, and facilitator for the Jasper County Parent University proposed the idea to several members of County Council, agencies and groups seeking support. Many attempts were made to start an advisory council for the project as well constant seeking of resources to sustain it. In late 2000, the Department of Social Services had funds available for community grants. With the assistance of Dr. Bob Wolff, an application was made for funding of the University. Unfortunately, budget cuts deemed DSS to retract the availability of the funds. The University eventually overcame many obstacles and didn’t need a lot of start-up capital.
In 2002, the Jasper County Development Board initiated a 5 Year, County wide strategic plan, where four task forces were developed. One task force, the education task force, chose to look at ways to promote education through the schools and the community. One goal set was to plan and implement the Parent University. Once again, the university endured another obstacle. Finally, after many unsuccessful attempts to raise capital to start the university, as chairman, Lillie Hall decided that the university needed to be pursued with the resources that were available. Several meetings were called for the task force but were unable to pull together enough members to conduct adequate planning. Mrs. Hall pursued the project anyway.
After mobilizing resources, the first orientation was held on October 12, 2002. Class sessions were October 19, November 2, and November 16, 2002, from 9am-12:10 pm each day. Students received 1 credit for each hour of instruction received for a maximum of 9 units. Students needed to acquire at least 5 units to graduate. If they received 7 they were silver graduates, 8 for gold graduates and 9 for platinum graduates. There were a total of 67 registrants for Fall 2002. Fourteen completed requirements to graduate.
A second session was held in Spring 2003. Eighty-six people enrolled in classes and 22 graduated. A third session was being scheduled for Fall 2003, but Mrs. Hall accepted a promotion and moved away. Jasper County First Steps coordinated the third session of Parent University for Spring 2005, but only 35 enrolled for classes. With low participation, the sessions were canceled.
Other notes about Parent University:
Realizing the impact that the Parent University can have on the community, several advocates agreed to bring Parent University back in the near future and 7 years later, we are organizing classes.