Connecting with people happens almost every day at the East Simpson Coffee Company in downtown Lafayette.

It’s also bringing together communities to talk about their concerns as parents. That’s why the Parent Engagement Network -- or PEN -- was started about 15 years ago. A group started in the Boulder Valley School Districts by parents like Co-founder Paula Nelson gives parents a place to turn when they are searching for answers on raising their kids.

“A lot of times you come up against these really tough situations and you don’t know where to turn,”
Nelson said. “PEN helps to build families up, it helps to build parents up so that they feel empowered to really provide that for their families.”

PEN Executive Director Shelly Mahon said the group was started in response to young people who needed help.

“Things like drug and alcohol use, not doing well in school, pulling away from their families,” Mahon said.

The group teaches parents a different approach when talking to their kids. Skills like storytelling, which can help parents listen to their kids and keep the lines of communication open.

“If parents and kids can sit down together and they can tell stories then it provides and environment where there’s more opportunities for more talking,” Mahon said.

It helps parents like Rosabelle Rice make a connection at home.

“It gave me permission to be imperfect…and to understand that within that imperfection that’s how families grow and thrive,” Rice said.

This means better lives for kids at home and at school, even when it’s their turn to be the parent.
“It’s really great to be in an environment with other parents and to see that you’re not the only parent trying to raise great kids,” Mahon said.

The Parent Engagement Network only operates in the Boulder Valley School District for now. For more information, click