COLUMBUS, Ohio — Awilda Aquino Matos and her husband have lived in the Linden neighborhood of Columbus for the past two decades after emigrating from Puerto Rico.

They raised three children here — two boys and a girl, ranging from seven to 19 years old.

She says these days her children's development and education are her top priorities. 

  • PLTI uses the power of mentoring to show parents how to not just be leaders at home, but in the community as well. 
  • The Central Ohio PLTI has been around for two years and currently has 13 students slated to graduate on March 29
  • PLTI is a nationwide organization that has been around three decades 

“We care about the education of our kids. But I think that we have to just be out there. We parents have to just take our schools, we have to just go and get involved in that life,” said student Awilda Aquino Matos. 

Matos is one of 13 students enrolled in the Central Ohio Parent Leadership Training Institute.

The 20-week course includes background on leadership, diversity, public speaking, policy and municipal budgets, to name a few.

Coordinators say the goal is to empower new leaders in the community.

“We're asking them to go out and maybe partner with one of the non-profits that are already out there existing, and maybe they can add to their non-profit, be an asset,” says Central Ohio PLTI Site Coordinator Karla Poole. 

Central Ohio PLTI is a refresher course to many from all walks of life—whether you're a parent or grandparent.

The nationwide program has been around for nearly three decades and is current in more than a dozen states.

Matos says with the changing times, she felt the need to update herself —in her words, like an old computer.

“I'm 47 years old, I have a seven-year-old, for me it's a scary thought that I will be 55 and he's going to be 15. So, I need to be pretty much involved, and give me an update,” said Matos. 

The program runs from September and ends with graduation at the Ohio Statehouse on March 29. There, each student will present his or her community project based upon a personal passion. 

“All the work we put into it, to see at the very end, to see those smiles on those parents faces, and see their projects are being implemented into the community,” said Poole. 

And Matos says she hopes to inspire others and help break down stigmas, as she continues to develop her voice and skill set for civic leadership.

“We really can change how the community sees us parents, how the community sees our children, and we can have a better outcome,” says Matos. 

The Central Ohio PLTI group is the only one in our state. 

They also have an alumni group that serves as advisors and coaches for current parent leaders on their community projects.