Roxanne Jones took a day off work soon after the school year began and paid a visit to Oxon Hill High School.
Her 14-year-old son, Dominic, is a freshman in the science and technology magnet program there. But when she introduced herself to some of the staff, one administrator expressed surprise that she was there, since Dominic had not been in any trouble.
"I told him that is not why I'm here," Jones recalled. "I said I'm here to get to know who you are and to share with you my dreams for my child."
I don't know if that administrator was impressed.
But I sure am.
Numerous studies have shown that by the time children get to high school, many of their parents no longer participate in school activities let alone show up at school just because. Parents start dropping out of sight around middle school, just about the time puberty starts to set in and the self-conscious adolescents are no longer thrilled to be seen with mom or dad.
That doesn't mean parents should be invisible or that children no longer need their parents' involvement.
In her book, "Higher Ground: Preparing African-American Children for College," Leah Y. Latimer makes this point by citing a survey of 17,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The survey shows that when both parents are involved in their children's education, 51 percent of the children are likely to earn straight A's. The percentage of children who excel in that way drops to 27 percent when neither parent participates or when they attend just one school activity a year.
Jones, 43, is a single parent and a business analyst for a major health insurance company. She probably has less time than many parents who claim there aren't enough hours in a day for them to hold down their jobs and visit school, volunteer and join the PTA.
So, my question to Jones was simple: How does she do it?
It starts with an attitude, she said. "I'm just not willing to lose him. The way I look at it, the future is really not me. The future is Dominic. . . . For me to give up whatever I give up is a small price to pay for what he will be able to do."
Jones has passed up promotions at work to maintain decent work hours and a schedule that allows her to take time off when necessary. She has always participated in the PTA, and she stays on the lookout for inexpensive academic enhancement or extracurricular activities for Dominic.
Since Dominic has been in high school, she set a goal to visit his school at least once a month. She shows up just to browse or check out a particular program.
Parents often complain that they feel unwelcome in their children's schools--an issue that Superintendent Iris T. Metts has said she hopes to address. But Jones said that has not been a problem at Oxon Hill.
"When I walk in, I want to make sure the atmosphere feels comfortable," she said. "I'm not waiting for an invitation from them to say, 'Come and join us.' I'm telling them I'm coming to join you."
Jones said she is particularly vigilant because the statistics are grim for African American boys, whose overall academic performance is poor and whose suspension rate is high in Prince George's.
As the sole breadwinner, Jones forgoes simple personal luxuries, such as getting her nails done, eating out and paying for cable channels. That way, she can afford to have a computer and Internet access at home.
Like any other teenager, Dominic seems a bit embarrassed by his mom's insistence on being so involved. These days, they argue a lot, particularly when she says no, as she did recently when he wanted to try out for the basketball team.
Jones said she realized that she wouldn't be able to transport him to and from practice every day, and she just could not squeeze $140 from her tight budget for the sneakers he wanted. She told him the truth and bought him a $20 computer game instead.
But Jones and her son must be doing something right.
Dominic is an honor student at Oxon Hill. He received an academic excellence award for completing Stephen Decatur Middle School in Clinton last year with a 3.5 grade-point average.
He is enrolled in a program for gifted students at Johns Hopkins University. And he has been selected to participate in a school system initiative called Promising Leaders Ultimately Merit Scholars, or PLUMS, a program designed to boost the county's number of National Merit Scholars by identifying and preparing the county's brightest students.
He also plays the trumpet in the marching band at Oxon Hill, and he participates in the Navy Sea Cadet Program at Andrews Air Force Base once a month.
Jones's investments in her son--the kind of investments that more of us should make--have already begun to pay off.
"This is going to enable him to compete and do well and give back to society," she said.
"My greatest contribution to society is him."
To comment or suggest a story idea, feel free to write to me at 14402 Old Mill Rd., Suite 201, Upper Marlboro, Md. 20772.
You can also send me an e-mail at frazierL@washpost.com. Or you can reach me by telephone at 301-952-2083.
CAPTION: Dominic, 14, practices the trumpet, which he plays in the marching band.
CAPTION: Roxanne Jones with her son, Dominic, a freshman in Oxon Hill's science and technology program.