Latino Parents Speak Up for Education in Tennessee


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Education is one of the key social determinants of health. It has been tied to a person’s overall health, long-term financial well-being, and job attainment. Latinos have made great strides in education in recent years, with high-school dropout rates at an all-time low and enrollment in colleges and universities at all-time highs.

However, for many Latino families, one barrier that keeps them from obtaining quality education is simply a lack of knowledge of the overall system.

In Memphis, TN (6.69% Latino population), a group of parents banded together to help Latino families in keep up with the city’s fast-changing education landscape.

They created Spanish-speaking classes as part of the Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful,” said Executive Director Sarah Carpenter.

The program was created two years ago and has, to date, had over 200 parents take part. Previously, the program was largely attended by African-Americans; as the city’s population has changed, the organizers knew they needed to reach out to Latino parents, as well.

As of 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had nearly 14,000 students, which accounted for or 12.3% of the total student population.

“We want to be more informed,” said Manuela Martinez, a parent that participated in the program whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

The five-week course includes lessons on local school options, how to speak at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for children. The program is now taught by alumna Carmelita Hernandez.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” said Hernandez. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

You can read more about the program here.

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