INDIANAPOLIS — (November 16, 2020) — EmpowerED Families, an Indianapolis nonprofit organization that builds family power and voice to advance educational equity, today announced the selection of the inaugural cohort of EmpowerED Families Parent Advocates. The cohort consists of eight Black and Latina Fellows who will spend six months building community engagement, advocacy, and organizing skills and will help create the organization’s first policy platform.

“I am honored to serve our community with a group of accomplished, passionate leaders and am excited about the possibilities this Fellowship can help create for Indianapolis families,” said Ontay Johnson, Executive Director of EmpowerED Families. “These ladies have been on the front lines for Indianapolis children and families in a myriad of capacities for years. I believe they will leave a mark in our community that can’t be erased in the landscape of education equity.”

The eight selected Parent Advocates are:

Paula Barrett has spent her life serving others in a variety of ways, including childcare provider, foster care parent, entrepreneur, and home healthcare provider. She serves on the Far Eastside Impact Council, is a K-8 Task Force Leader, and volunteers for various community organizations.

Iris Blanco is a school social worker with more than a decade of experience and has worked with children for 20 years in a variety of capacities. She has served English Language Learners and helped them acclimate to a new culture, new language, and new education system.

Alexandra J. Hall is a passionate leader for early childhood education programs in Indianapolis, with responsibilities including ensuring compliance with local, state and federal laws, coordinating care for students with exceptional needs, securing grant funding, and family engagement.

Clare Pope is a Family Life Enhancement Consultant and community engagement advocate serving individuals, youth, and parents for nearly fifteen years. Clare is a member of the Far Eastside Community Council and the Community Resource Council/K-8 Task Force.

Betty Salgado is an English as a New Language teacher at James and Rosemary Phalen Leadership Academy on the Far Eastside of Indianapolis.

Delma Suber has worked in higher education counseling, family social work, and social services for more than fifteen years. She has a special interest and skill in advising and nurturing a student’s path in college.

Kisha Walker is a native of Indianapolis and founded Urban Liaison Inc., a grassroots organization focused on the betterment of the family. She is an affiliate of Indiana Parenting Institute, a nonprofit family services organization.

Wendy Williams is an Indianapolis native and an Indianapolis Public Schools alumna who has dedicated her career to early childhood development. She has worked at Head Start for nearly 20 years and is currently a Center Assistant. She is also a member of the Parent Policy Council.

All eight Parent Advocates are parents, grandparents, or actively work or volunteer in ways that impact the lives of children and families in Indianapolis. To learn more about each Fellow, visit

“During this time of continuing uncertainty, our children are experiencing trauma and challenges that none of us could have contemplated a year ago. The need for our parents and families to engage with and for each other remains supremely critical, especially as we are all struggling to maintain connection,” said Barato Britt, President and CEO of Edna Martin Christian Center and EmpowerED Families board member. “For this reason, I’m excited that EmpowerED Families is ramping up efforts to build parent and family power during this trying time, both to remind families they are not alone and to strengthen their collective voices toward meaningful reforms.”

The EmpowerED Families Parent Advocates Fellowship is a six-month, part time training program for parents, family leaders and community members who want to build family power in the Indianapolis education system. Parent Advocate Fellows commit to and are compensated for up to 20 hours of training and work per month.

Beginning in November 2020, Parent Advocate Fellows will engage in a Training Intensive to develop critical organizing and advocacy skills that can help them build relationships, identify issues important to the community, and build campaigns around selected issues. Parent Advocates will develop and refine community engagement skills, and will lead their own events and meetings to apply the knowledge they will have gained.

Parent Advocates will receive 12, one-hour coaching sessions, focused on their long-term development as a community organizer and progress on their goals, which can be customized to their own interests and identified community needs. Fellows will have the discretion to research and advocate for specific education-related issues they care about and will have support to implement programming related to these issues.

“Based on my own experience, I believe that informed and active families play a crucial role in the educational process of our children,” said Betty Salgado. “For this reason, I am super excited to begin the fellowship with EmpowerED Families. I hope to gain knowledge on how to enable families to become an active part of their children’s education.”

By the conclusion of the Parent Advocates Fellowship, leaders will be able to use the skills they will develop to partner with EmpowerED Families’ leadership and board to create the organization’s first policy platform. EmpowerED Families plans to present the platform to the public in 2021.

The eight Parent Advocates were selected based on their interest in developing community organizing skills to advance educational equity in Indianapolis, lived experiences to help inform EmpowerED Families’ work, and deep belief in the power and resilience of Indianapolis families. Fellows did not need prior formal experience with advocacy or organizing.

Community Engagement Partners (CEP) will lead monthly training with Parent Advocates Fellows. CEP is a non-profit that supports organizations and leaders across the nation as they partner with and learn from their respective local communities to advance racial equity and economic justice.

“Indianapolis has been a leader in education innovation for close to 20 years, and the EmpowerED Families Fellowship is no exception,” said Charles McDonald, Founder and Executive Director of Community Engagement Partners. “We are honored to support an organization so deeply committed to strengthening the leadership of Black and Brown parents and families. The EmpowerED Families Fellowship is what happens when parents and families move from ‘consumers of education’ to co-creating educational equity.”


About EmpowerED Families 

EmpowerED Families builds Indianapolis parent and family power and voice through relationships and rallying behind the strengths of parents to weave together the home, school, and community, in order to fight for educational equity. EmpowerED Families listens, organizes, and educates parents to bring the change they want to see in the Indianapolis education system. To learn more, visit