Today we’d like to introduce you to Shari O Scher.
Hi Shari, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
My life’s work has been in early childhood education. After many years of teaching in different cities and counties, I became early childhood specialist and family involvement supervisor for Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS). I was in that position for almost 30 years. I also became an Adjunct Professor at Hood College, a title I held for a very long time. However, a ‘secret’ I always carried was that my father, a man I adored, went to jail when I was a teenager. As the family involvement supervisor for FCPS, I was able to work with many who were often disenfranchised or without a voice- grandparents raising children, caregivers new to the country, foster care families. My role in family involvement allowed me to reflect about starting a new group which I named Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (COIPP). I called together lots of educators from all around Frederick County, and the group began. Once I retired from FCPS, I was able to devote full-time attention to the organization. I now serve as Founder and Executive Director. Everyone involved is a volunteer and is passionate about the work we do. While we serve children and families in the Frederick County region, I work with anyone who wishes to start a similar organization.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has not always been a smooth road. For one, the work needing to be done is huge. It requires absolute persistence. In addition, it requires lots of fundraising in order to accomplish the program goals. This often comes with grant applications, mid-year reports and end of year reports. All of this takes lots of time. The result is a job that spills over to early mornings, evenings and weekends. Lastly, the families often have many needs that are not easy to solve. We are always thinking about new strategies and resources in order to help the children and the families reach their potential. COVID certainly did not make things easier. Many of our caregivers were let go from work or had to stay home to take care of the children in their care. Family visitations were stopped at local jails/prisons. However, we have kept going and growing. In fact, pivot may now be my favorite word.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I have seen my entire career as one of being an ‘educator’. I believe I am known for serving families whose special struggles are not thought about by many. I am also one who will not give up, regardless of the barriers. Folks comment about that all the time. Lastly, doing all this in my later years is something that many tell me that they hope to emulate. This makes me proud!
COIPP’s growth shows what can be accomplished with the right team of people and the understanding that not being successful is not an option. In terms of COIPP, I am proud of everything we do, but I am most proud of the community college scholarships we offer to children, caregivers and those recently released from jail/prison, our ongoing children’s activities and our respite meetings for caregivers. I have to add our parenting classes for those in jail. and workshops that we do all over the county for caregivers so that they can better assist the children in their care. Our book giveaways and our Sharing Fairs and COVID Emergency Giveaways add to the list. In fact, we also write all of our own curriculum so that we can be relevant about all we share. I cannot find one thing that is more important than another in terms of COIPP. I am just proud and happy to be a part of it.
Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
What a good question. Lots make me happy, but for sure it is living a life that may just help someone. I think that is the best we can all do and the best we can all strive for. Money is, of course, important, but at the end of the day all we really leave on this earth is the way we help and treat others. I think that is why COIPP fulfills me.
Needless to say, my husband, children, grandchildren are a huge part of my happiness, I cannot thank them enough. They put up with my crowded schedule and multitude of meetings. Without them, however, I would not have many people to share the small successes with. Let me add in friends, travel, working out and reading, and I think I may be the happiest person in the world.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.coipp.org
- Instagram: @coippfrederick
- Facebook: @ChildrenOfIncarceratedParentsPartnership