Monday, February 18, 2013

Trenton Parent Turns Pain Into Purpose By Launching Non-Profit

TRENTON-- Anwar's Reflections-- a Trentonian affiliate-- sat down with a Trenton parent that turned the pain she experienced with the Trenton Public School System into having a firm and steady purpose to help others.

Recently, I met and had an interview with Nicole Whitfield, a Trenton parent and now president of the Trenton Special Parent Advocacy Group (TSPAG), a local non-profit organization that aims to help provide information and advocacy to parents with children that have special needs.

During our short interview, Whitfield discussed why she launched the non-profit, and what she and her group were currently doing to help other parents in need.

Whitfield is a parent of a child that was diagnosed with autism at age 3, a developmental disorder that is typically diagnosed in early childhood, this is a major reason why the Trenton resident started this non-profit organization.

As a parent with a child that has special needs herself, Whitfield recognized the need to be informed about her child's rights.

After moving from Willingboro to Trenton, Whitfield found that she was encountering many roadblocks and issues with the Trenton Public School System as it related to her child's education.  Issues like her child not being pulled for his required speech therapy sessions. Issues like spending hours at the school board to make sure the school was complying with her child's Individualized Education Program or Plan (IEP).

An IEP is a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in keeping with certain requirements of law and regulations according to the National Dissemination Center for Children With  Disabilities' website.

Through her struggle with the school system, Whitfield says that she had cried many tears, and it was through that pain that she launched her non-profit organization. In an interview, Whitfield said, "I vowed to be my son’s best advocate and my only goal is to teach other parents how to do the same while making our school districts accountable for not providing the services that our children are entitled to".

Today, Whitfield, as a concerned parent, seeks to help bridge the information gap between the parent and the school district by acting an advocate.

According to the non-profit's organizations website, TSPAG's mission statement is to "create pathways to equitable education for children with special needs".

Indeed, in today's busy world, many parents face obstacles like not having enough information, not knowing the right questions to ask or the right people to talk to. This is where TSPAG comes in. They provide advocacy and assistance in these areas.
After speaking to Whitfield, I interviewed some individuals that received some of TSPAG's services. In interview after interview, I was told by parents that they too had experienced difficulty with the Trenton Public School System regarding their child's (IEP).

Concerned parent Felicia Gilmore said that her son who is diagnosed with ADHD was not receiving the proper services from the child study team in regards to his IEP. After speaking with several people, I was told that I should get an advocate. I got Nicole’s phone number from another organization that could not help me with these issues.

Gilmore went on to say that TSPAG has helped her in several different ways by going with her to all of her meetings regarding her son’s I.E.P and providing her with support from start to finish, along with answering any questions she had. Gilmore also reports that Whitfield explained things that I didn’t understand regarding Special Education and the I.E.P for my son.
According to another parent, Pia Odom Barksdale, she and Whitfield immediately clicked because as she says, "it was comforting to see that someone else that went through the same thing as I did". Barksdale went on to say that TSPAG will speak on your behalf and help you understand your child’s rights when it comes to education, especially special needs education.

Dorothy Huss, another concerned parent, said that Whitfield was like a pit-bull when advocating on her and her child's behalf. Huss said that she wouldn't let up and that advocacy groups like TSPAG are important because so many parents accept things and don't hold the school board accountable when the school board says that your child has a problem. 

As things stand today, Whitfield and her non-profit organization report that despite putting out flyers, mass emails, and using social media like Facebook, they are still facing the challenge of not receiving enough exposure publicly.

For more information on the non-profit or how to get involved, visit their website by clicking here or you can contact Nicole Whitfield by emailing her at

For access to the interview between Mrs. Whitfield and I, click below:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I continue to wish Ms. Whitfield every success with her own child and every family this endeavor will help. ~ Toby Sanders