APS Column: Success coaches: Building bridges to connect school and home

Published 5:23 pm Friday, November 3, 2023

By Kristi Beckman

Council for Educational Equity Integration Collaboration Coordinator

As the demographics in Austin change, success coaches are at the forefront of the effort to build intentional connections between family, school, and community.  Currently, 15 success coaches serve as interpreters, cultural liaisons, mentors, and parent educators for Austin Public Schools.  Their proficiency in more than 12 languages (including Anyuak, Arabic, Burmese, Dinka, English, Fon, French, Karen, Karenni (Kayah), Spanish, Swahili, and Thai) provides an incredible asset as we work to help parents overcome language barriers. But what are Success Coaches and what do they do?

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Imagine that you’ve just moved to Austin from another country, and you’re unfamiliar with the school system in the United States.  A success coach can give you a school tour, teach you about the routines and expectations in the schools, and build a trusted relationship with you so that you feel welcomed and respected.

Imagine you just moved to Austin from a refugee camp. You want to learn English so you can help your family and you need help filling out job applications and school enrollment paperwork.  A success coach can help interpret for you and connect you to those community resources.

Imagine your child is a high school student and you want to support their pursuit of higher education. A success coach can help connect you with counselors so you can track your child’s credits and progress toward on-time graduation, get information about FAFSA and the MN Prosperity act, motivate your child to take college-credit bearing courses during the school year and special summer programs, and connect you with college advisors.

Imagine you have a question for your child’s teacher, but you’re unable to ask in English or don’t know who to ask. Success coaches help provide communication support to ensure all families have full access to the APS community. They also help families get engaged in extracurricular activities, athletics, advanced academics, community events, and volunteerism.

Success coaches serve as bridges for families to help ensure student success. In addition to interpreting, Success coaches play an important role in supporting parents as they adjust to life in a new country and community.  They offer suggestions for supporting learning at home and connecting families with resources to understand the nuances of parenting in a new culture.  They empower caregivers to become active participants in decision making processes in the school and the community.

Just as our student population is quickly becoming more diverse, Austin continues to work to recruit and retain teachers who are representative of the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of our students. Some of our success coaches have recently completed degree programs and are now licensed classroom teachers. Research shows that students benefit positively in attendance, academics, and behavior when they have teachers who share their cultural background.

The impact our success coaches make on student learning is profound, and their efforts make a valuable contribution toward ensuring all students in our district can achieve their dreams.

If you’d like to learn more about the Success Coaches, please contact Kristi Beckman, Equity Coordinator for Austin Public Schools, at kristi.beckman@austin.k12.mn.us.