Parents of Williams Unified School District students, along with district administrators, and officials from the California Association for Bilingual Education, celebrated last week the completion of the first Project 2 Inspire Parent and Family Engagement Program to be held in the district.
About 31 parents completed CABE’s Level 1 program that taught them the basic steps of how they can work with schools to improve their children’s learning experience. About 14 parents participated in the graduation ceremony, which was held March 13 at the Williams Elementary School.
Rosa Villasenor, Williams Unified’s EL administrator, said the program gives parents the tools they need to be active partners in improving the schools and supporting the education of their children.
“The program is designed to increase parent participation,” Villasenor said. “Parents learn about the different ways to be involved in school so they can be become more involved in their children’s education.”
The training, funded by a grant in partnership with the Colusa County Office of Education, is part of several levels of family, school, and community engagement programs offered through CABE, a non-profit organization incorporated in 1976 to promote bilingual education and quality education experiences for all students in California.
CABE Parent Program Specialist Toni Hernandez, who taught the course, said only a few parents attended at the very beginning, but once word got around, the program flourished.
“Parents were able to learn about a variety of topics,” Hernandez said. “They got to learn about the school system of the United States. Many come from other countries, so that’s hard to understand. To have this training helps them build communications with teachers, with the schools and with the community, and to be able to help their kids at home, and be able to support their education. That is our main goal – the kids. Our focus is to take our kids to success and also for the parents to live to their potential.”
Although the Project 2 Inspire program typically runs 10-12 weeks, parents opted to double up on the sessions in order to complete the course in about half the time.
Parents who spoke at the ceremony said the program was life-changing for them, in that it taught them to meaningfully advocate for their children. Parents said the program provided them tools to engage school staff, and how to support and cultivate positive environments, build relationships with families, and increase their children’s learning experience and academic achievements.
“I got a lot of good ideas on how to guide my kids, how to question teachers, and how to help other parents get the correct information – and tell them how important it is to be involved in their children’s school,” said Joanna Guevera, the mother of three. “I also want to tell them how important it is to keep learning so they can make their children successful, and to never give up.”
Guevera said parents should not be afraid to ask questions, especially questions about how their children are doing in school.
“I think that is what is holding parents back,” she said. “It’s staying in your comfort zone. You have to ask questions and get answers. You can’t stay in your comfort zone, you have to keep going.”
Guevera, who has her associate’s degree, told the group during her presentation that her goal is to finish college to get her bachelor’s degree in business.
After the ceremony, Guevera, a 2005 Williams High School graduate, said she regrets that Williams Unified, when she was in school, did not encourage all students to attend four-year colleges after high school as the district does now.
“I wish I was in high school now,” she said. “I think they are preparing students more now to attend four-year universities. I was a 4.0 student, and I feel like they told me I wasn’t ready. There were some personal issues, but I think if they would have guided me more, I would have gone, I would have stayed, and I would have finished.”
Elodia Ortega-Lampkin, CABE president, attended last week’s ceremony.
She said that Project 2 Inspire has been around for a few years, mostly in Southern California, but as the grant comes to an end, she was pleased that several Northern California schools, including Williams and Corning, were able to have the training at their schools.
In addition to promoting rigorous instructional programs with high expectations for all students, Ortega-Lampkin hopes more schools and communities embrace inclusiveness, biliteracy, and multicultural awareness.
Ortega-Lampkin, wife of Superintendent Edgar Lampkin and Assistant Superintendent of Schools at Lodi Unified, said CABE provides a number of enrichment programs, including those for parents, teachers, schools administrators, and school board members.
“We’re very proud of the impact we have made across the state,” Ortega-Lampkin said. “We have parents that have now become trainers. Now they are going around to schools training other parents. That’s the best part.”
Williams Unified trustees George Simmons and Rosa Orozco-Lopez attended the ceremony. School Board president Sylvia Vaca took the course as a Williams Unified parent. ■