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This is the first of two features about PPS National’s Community Coordinators. These unsung heroes work within communities to help citizens understand how to influence positive change in the places that they call home.

Chiquikta Fountain worked as a Parents for Public Schools Parent Coach for five years before becoming a PPS Community Coordinator. The new position meant working within communities to educate people about how to help improve their community’s standard of living. At first, the job was not exactly what she had in mind, to say the least.

Chiquikta admits that the job had to “grow on her,” but she came to enjoy it because, “done correctly, it (community organizing) helps people and organizations understand the connections that create power and make change happen.”

We are organizing around public education, and that is a hot topic in Mississippi.

Her work is largely in the Mississippi Delta, where Chiquikta has experienced both success and disappointment in rallying people around important causes. She has found “a lot of people who are apprehensive and doubtful that anything (including community organizing) can change their circumstances for the better.”

“We are organizing around public education, and that is a hot topic in Mississippi,” Fountain says. “I have come across those who just do not understand or appreciate the technique and believe that no matter how many relationships you build, things will continue to be the same.” In such instances, the community coordinator has learned to “move on” to find those who are receptive to becoming a part of the solution.

The most satisfying part of Chiquikta’s job is conducting Parent Engagement Program (PEP) sessions. The program is designed to show parents how to “find their voice and make connections” in helping improve student achievement in the public schools. She admits, “I love PEP!” PEP has been a platform where Chiquikta has seen parents educated by the PPS PEP curriculum “become confident in their abilities and skills,” ultimately stepping into leadership positions.

“That brings me so much gratification and happiness,” she admits freely.

While Chiquikta’s many job responsibilities have caused her anxiety at times, there have been lighthearted moments, too. One of the most memorable happened while PPS staff members were in Jackson for a multi-day meeting with then executive director, Dr. Catherine Cushinberry. At the new exec’s invitation, the staff went to a Jackson restaurant to eat. Some of the staff stayed long enough for Karaoke.

“The music came on, and all I can remember is that we put on a full production with choreographed dance moves and good enough singing to make the entire restaurant (customers) come out onto the patio to watch us. I still have this video in Dropbox somewhere.”

Chiquikta strongly believes in the importance of the work that Parents for Public Schools does. “I believe this work is important because I have seen it make a difference in the lives of parents and children, and where it has helped communities and school districts across the state and nation,” she says. She believes that the dedication of people to the work of the organization has allowed Parents for Public Schools to exist for three decades.

“This organization has not been around this long by happenstance,” adds Chiquikta. “It has been because the people who work here believe in what the organization stands for and work hard to develop resources and tools that will be sustainable, even if the organization goes away.”

“I am grateful to have found PPS because it has taught me how to be a better, more engaged parent, and how to use my passion to empower and mobilize others.”

Editor’s Note: Chiquikta Fountain’s outstanding work in the Mississippi Delta has not gone unnoticed. As of July 1, she became executive director of Delta Helping Hands, a nonprofit organization located in the Mississippi Delta. Among other things, we at PPS National  will miss her strong work ethic, soft-spoken demeanor, and gracious attention to details. We wish her well in her new position!