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Nurturing and transforming relationships: Q&A with Detroit partner Kecia Rorie

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

Q&A header image with headshots of Michelle Mondesir and Kecia Rorie
ParentCorps' Michelle Mondesir and Starfish Family Services' Kecia Rorie

In today’s Q&A, we’re excited to share a conversation with Kecia Rorie – a key champion who has helped bring ParentCorps to early education settings at Starfish Family Services, a Head Start grantee, in Detroit.

ParentCorps’ partnership with Starfish Family Services began in 2015, when Kecia observed ParentCorps Professional Development series and returned to Detroit with commitment to bring ParentCorps – seen as a new vehicle to help educators explore their beliefs, build new kinds of relationships, and embrace social-emotional best practices – to Starfish settings. Together with colleagues, Kecia then made that happen, building a multi-year partnership that proved especially important through the crisis of COVID. Below, Kecia shares more about the journey to embed ParentCorps into the early education experience for children, families and educators at Starfish.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are you most proud of when you think about the Starfish and ParentCorps partnership so far?

It’s all about relationships. I take pride in knowing that when people walk into this work – no matter what role they’re playing – they’re going to walk out differently. Most of that change has been in the relationships that people hold. If we stopped everything right now, those relationships would still stand.

We recently trained a large group of teachers, and I already see a change in my relationships with them because of the interactions we had and the bonds that grew during that experience this past June. There’s a level of comfort. And they’re still talking about how they can’t wait to implement this work in their classrooms.

I’m willing to bet that there’s also relationships happening in the classroom that we will see form and look differently because of the work [with ParentCorps]. [The teachers] can’t wait to get started.

They’re energized and ready to go. What has surprised you the most seven years into our partnership?

People still get so excited about doing ParentCorps. Doing the work, talking about the work, I’m just as excited about it as when I was first introduced to ParentCorps in 2015.

It’s hard and not linear… There are all of these things to adapt to, but the other side of it is still being really excited about leading a training. What advice would you give other partners early on in their journey?

Sometimes you jump into the work and you’re so excited and want it all right away. Keep that excitement, but give yourself the flexibility to move and pivot in whichever way the work takes you. There are so many unknown variables that you can’t account for, so don’t let it pull you too quickly and don’t try to take on too much at one time.

It’s this balance. From very early on, you had this clear vision of ParentCorps being a part of just how Starfish does its work. I hear you describing how to stay with the present while holding that bigger vision and prioritizing what’s right in front of you.

I knew that we would be here one day. It was just a matter of time. If you can find someone who believes in the work and hasn’t even gone through the training yet, that is magical. Everything else will fall into place.

I think in some ways, you even helped us to have vision about where Starfish is going. You brought us along. When you look into the future, what do you see for the ParentCorps and Starfish partnership?

I see ParentCorps fully embedded at Starfish. You have a classroom, so you do Friends School. There are annual refresher Professional Development trainings for our teachers, and ParentCorps’ [model] is just part of the onboarding for new teachers.

Once we get ParentCorps fully embedded, I think there’s going to be this continued partnership and there may be opportunities for Starfish and NYU [where ParentCorps is housed] to continue to connect and partner on other things.

I want ParentCorps to be like the myths that I hear around here. Nobody knows where they were created, we just know that one day twenty years ago we started doing it.

“I want ParentCorps to be like the myths that I hear around here. Nobody knows where they were created, we just know that one day twenty years ago we started doing it.”

What impact has ParentCorps had on you and your work?

[ParentCorps] is in me, and it reflects in my relationships. It reflects on how I interact with my peers here at work, with my family, and with my friends.

I just had a difficult conversation with my [colleague]. In the moment, I stopped and I was not judging. I just listened to them and let them talk. I was trying to get them to see something from a very relational standpoint, but they’re a numbers person and that’s not what they do. To me, that’s ParentCorps in a nutshell. That’s what the work asks us to do – to not judge, but to kind of sit back and ask one another to understand each other’s perspective.

“That’s what the work asks us to do – to not judge, but to kind of sit back and ask one another to understand each other’s perspective.”

It just makes me breathe [ParentCorps], and it oozes out of me, and I’m able to carry it in every conversation that I have.

This impact is very invigorating for me to hear. It helps me remember why I like doing this work. Is there anything else you would like to share?

As physically exhausting as it is [to lead trainings], I never get tired of seeing the transformation of people. And I don’t think I’ve ever previously witnessed a transformation of people over 24 hours of training.

It’s always the majority of the room that I can see this transformation. That, to me, has been the most mind-blowing part of all this and it’s why I get so excited about it.

People use the games [from Professional Development] that can turn into real life analogies for them. And they’re able to understand the work – not because we’ve given them something that was magical from the sky – but simply because we’re able to deliver information that makes them truly look and reflect within, and to actually ask themselves the hard questions. That’s work that I would go to bat for all day every day.

Michelle Mondesir is the ParentCorps Manager of Expansion.

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