Austin schools: Program empowers minority parents new to community

Published 8:52 am Friday, April 19, 2013

By Raquel Imbert, Ellis Middle School Success Coach

Minority parents may face a variety of challenges when arriving to a new community. With this in mind, a group of Austin Public School employees with the support of minority parents and other organizations have developed a Parent Empowerment Program.

The reason for this initiative is often minority parents face the expected stress of moving to a new community magnified by language barriers and differences between their own and the local culture. Also, they might not be totally acquainted with the local school system, which can look very different from the ones in their country of origin. In contrast, their children usually learn the new culture, the school system and the English language rapidly. The idea is that the knowledge acquired through the Parent Empowerment Program could give these parents some tools that will help them bridge the gap and support their children in their new reality.

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The program consists of eight sessions with an organized curriculum. In each of the sessions parents can learn and discuss specific topics and techniques related to a variety of subjects. In the last portion of each session (with the goal of helping them to be aware of the resources in the community) the attendants also have the opportunity to listen to the presentation and meet guest speakers from different organizations in town.

The group of leaders has been working since May 2012. The first session of the program happened in January of this year and as of today, six sessions have been held.

The sessions occur every other Saturday and the program is delivered in English, interpreted in the parents’ main language. The whole family is invited to attend. While parents and their older children attend the sessions, their younger children have a series of fun activities available just for them. A group of minority high school students has been volunteering their time to help with the activities for the little ones.

The results have been very promising. A significant number of families are attending the events. Attendants are engaged and participate in the sessions with comments or questions about the topics that have been presented. The feedback obtained from parents, presenters and guest speakers is very positive.

Although the Parent Empowerment Program was developed with minority parents in mind, any parent is welcome to attend the sessions. For more information, contact Raquel Imbert at 507-460-1515.