How to Turn Latino Parents into Leaders in 12 Weeks


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Students do better academically and socially with parents who are active in their schooling.

However, low-income Latino parents have historically scored lower in reading to children, helping with homework, volunteering at school events, and parent-teacher communication, according to a recent research review by Salud America!

That is why one Georgia middle school started a free, bilingual 12-class program to help Latino parents become school leaders!

Georgia Steps Up for Latino Parents

Latinos face many barriers to school engagement, such as language barriers, work schedules, poverty, and social discomfort. Many Latinos also believe in the concept of educación—parents teach moral education, schools teach academic education.

Bottom line, when it comes to their children’s school, Latino parents often feel as if they can’t contribute or may not know how to get involved.

Officials at Otwell Middle School in Forsyth, Ga. (9.3% Latino), took notice of these struggles for the Latino parents at their school.

So they partnered with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) two years ago to bring the Parent School Partnership (PSP) program to their school. Since 1989, thousands of parents across the U.S. have successfully completed MALDEF’s PSP Program.

The program features 12 free, bilingual sessions. At Otwell, Latino parents learn how the school system works, how they can support their children at home, and how to get involved at school. As many as 25 parents fill the room each week for 12 weeks. Turning schools into community hubs that provide on-site services for parents as well as children results in long-term benefits for Latino children and families, according to Salud America!

How Do Parents Really Become Leaders?

For the past two years, PSP participants at Otwell have focused on parental rights and responsibilities, parent-teacher partnership, and structure and function of the school and district, according to Frank Reddy from Forsyth County News.

Through guest speakers, field trips and group projects, caregivers are advised on how to set their kids on the path to college and how to establish responsible leadership and teamwork as parents.

PSP teaches that assertive communication is important for all parents as leaders. The course prepares participants to become effective speakers and leaders in their community to affect change.

At the end of the 12 weeks, participants will present a speech to their classmates with the power to change the problem they want to resolve. Parents learn communication skills that lead their advocacy to be a positive, not negative experience when:

  • Talking with other parents or teachers
  • Addressing a school board
  • Conducting a workshop

Program Grads Leave a Lasting Legacy

Parents receive a graduation certificate upon completing the PSP course. They leave feeling included in their child’s school and empowered to be active in their child’s educational journey.

PSP provides Latino families with the resources to advocate for their family and give their children the best educational opportunities possible. Thus, parents and schools work together to stop the cycle of academic and social disadvantage for future generations.

“Well-informed, active parents naturally collaborate with educators and administrators to better prepare their children for success,” states MALDEF. “When many parents become involved, this collaboration benefits all; the students, the school and the community!”

Planning for Ongoing Family Engagement

PSP is just a small part of Otwell Middle School’s School Plan for Shared Student Achievement (SPSSA), a written policy that promises to provide opportunities to improve family-school engagement to support student learning at home and at school. This plan is a must for all Title I schools in the U.S.

According to Otwell’s SPSSA, families are an “important foundation of the school” and without their involvement, Otwell would struggle to reach their school goals.

Otwell also opens their Family Resource Center to parents. This on-campus center is open daily and stocked with books, study materials, and activities for parents and children to do at home. School staff can walk parents through the online Parent Portal to ensure that parents have regular access to their student’s academic progress and are able to easily communicate with their teachers.

Check out MALDEF’s website for more leadership opportunities and to see how you can bring PSP to your school and become a trainer! Their extensive resource page covers many helpful topics for Latino parents and educators.

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