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Eugenia Ambrocio, advocacy team and parent outreach coordinator of the ENLACE y Avance Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, writes:

When parents are empowered to advocate for their children and collaborate with schools, they become more engaged in students' transition to high school and the process of preparing for college. ENLACE (Engaging Latino Communities for Education) is an initiative funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to increase opportunities for Latino students to enter and complete college and to boost the involvement of Latino parents in local schools.

In our project we work mostly with Latino, Spanish-speaking parents, and we engage them as leaders. Parents are natural leaders by themselves. However, often Latino parents don't feel comfortable in the schools, or have so much respect for these institutions that they don't questions their performance. They don't know that they have certain rights. We provide parents with information and tools to navigate the school system. For example, this year we began our first Parent Leadership Initiative.

The Parent Leadership Initiative is a 16-week training where parents can acquire a deeper knowledge of the school system and learn about parental rights and responsibilities, ask meaningful questions, and take action for individual children and the Latino community as a whole. We use a curriculum developed by the Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund (MALDEF) called the National Parent School Partnership. The topics we cover include the differences between the school system in the United States and Latin America, the politics of education, the structure and function of the different committees in the schools, the importance of meeting with teachers, administrators, and counselors, and what questions to ask in a parent-teacher conference. We also discuss making presentations, university requirements, how to access the media, and responsible leadership.

Another way to engage parents in the transition to high school is by involving them in community projects. For example, one project involves parents working with a junior high school principal to create a bilingual glossary about what incoming parents of seventh grade children need to know about junior high.

From our point of view, if parents question their school administrators, counselors, and teachers, or work in collaboration with them regarding their children academics, then they are exercising leadership. This engagement will help them become informed to help their children to transition from middle to high school.

Eugenia Ambrocio
Advocacy Team Coordinator & Parent Outreach Coordinator
ENLACE y Avance Project
Center for Chicano Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106


© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project