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 In Parent Partner Program

For weeks on end, parents expected that today would be quite hectic, but productive, for many of them at Marshall E.S. For twenty two parents, to be exact. Under heavy rains, and just as diligently as it happens on any other day, parents dropped their children at 8:40 a.m. to start school. Heavy coats, umbrellas, rain-boots, gloves, and scarves are a part of the wet, wet scene.

As they were coming in, the rain swayed like no other day, propelled by the wind, and it sometimes dropped thinly, while at moments it looked like it was capable of pelting anything on its path against the ground.

However today is utterly different. The date has been duly anticipated, as it marks the beginning of the enjoyment of one of the ELAC’s major accomplishments: the beginning of a 12 weeks cycle of Computer Literacy Classes (CLC).

Through a relentless effort to unify all key players within and without the school, parents from the SSC and the ELAC ensured that this long identified need was properly addressed, and scratched off Marshall’s Balance Score Card “to do list.” One of those key players in helping realize this project is Mission Graduates’ Parent Partner Program. CAMINOS, another Mission based CBO, is also soiling new territory here, by providing 24 CLC sessions beginning January 20, and ending April 15, 2010.

From 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. 22 Marshall ES Latino parents received their first orientation into a world many have been wondering about from the afar. The enthusiasm cannot be hidden, as people feel an intimidating code has been cracked, for once and for all. At the end of the class, we take a moment to catch up with one of the main key players among these parents: Pilar Tuz, a relatively new parent at Marshall E.S., and the mother of two remarkable students: Shelvy & Gloria. She is a member of the School Site Council. Here is what she had to say regarding parent engagement, her own learning, and why she feels compelled to participate in school governance.

Mission Graduates (MG) – when did you begin to be involved in your children’s school?

Pilar – I would say that I truly began being more serious about it this year. In previous years I did things here and there, like helping teachers, chaperoning during field trips after school, but the truth is that I did not really know how to insert myself, given that I also had very limited time, as I worked, and was attending school to learn English.

MG – So, what motivated you to be more involved?

Pilar – This year I imposed it on myself to commit to it. I had the desire to be more involved. It was my objective. Besides, another parent encouraged me a great deal; she’s a good friend of mine who is involved in the ELAC. After chatting with her, I decided to sign up for the School Site Council (SSC).

MG – How has the Parent Partner Program supported you in your role as SSC member?

I remember a meeting we had about understanding what the SSC & the ELAC do, and I remember feeling like I finally got it! I felt that teachers were paying attention to us, other community members too, and I felt that our follow through went somewhere, that it didn’t end in an alley. I think that my presence has helped move the school forward, even though I don’t have money. What I feel I have a lot of is ideas to contribute, and a voice, and a vote.

MG – How do you see the relationship between the ELAC & the SSC?

Pilar – I feel that there needs to be a true dialogue, more closeness, so that we can have critical conversations among the members of this community. There’s a lot to strategize about.

MG – What do you like the most about being involved?

Pilar – Through my participation I’m up to date on what is going on at the school and at the District. I have first hand information, as I feel more comfortable to relate to my children’s teachers, and my rapport with everyone here is great. I feel welcomed, more comfortable in the school. For instance, I knew immediately whether this whole computer literacy classes opportunity was going to be real or not, and how to access it. I jumped on them because they are taking place in an extremely safe environment where I know for a fact that I can learn!

MG – Do you feel like a parent leader?

Pilar – No; not really. My participation is good. That’s it. Mostly I feel that I am still learning to navigate all this. I need more information, maybe more skills. My pep is Gloria. She’s younger and needs more attention, so leader or not, I feel that I have to be here.

MG – What did you think of your first class with CAMINOS?

Pilar – It was eye-opening. Gosh! The class is small. I plan to take full advantage of this opportunity. I know I will acquire full dominion of the skills and the equipment. I see myself in the future helping with homework completion, increasing my confidence in communicating with my children’s teachers, and job searching, for sure, will look a lot different for me after this.

MG – What is a value or a cultural trait you are proud to infuse into your children?

Pilar – First of all, I always remark to them that I feel blessed to see that so many people take a great deal of interest in us. Complete strangers who don’t owe us anything take it upon themselves to support us. In that regard this community is unique. I tell my girls to observe and to value those gifts brought about by the kindness of strangers and to cultivate a love for reading and for education. I want for them to attend college, and I know that for that my full attention to them is critical.

As for me, I want to show them, through my example that I value education. I have this crazy dream to get my English up there, and go back to college to study something that will allow me to give something back, like being a Parent Liaison or a school counselor.

MG – What makes you proud about Shelvy and Gloria?

Pilar – Both of them make me so proud every day. They are extremely intelligent, and everyone tells me so. Hearing that fuels my desire to be here, and it puts a smile on my lips. I see them pushing themselves really hard and really enjoy gleaning good results as a consequence of their efforts. Shelvy is in 3rd grade, and Gloria is in 1st.

MG – What advice would you give to parents who are struggling, like you once did, to be more engaged?

Pilar – Support your children. They need you. We are the foundation. Let’s show them that they have our full attention. We need to share the job of raising them. Teachers can only go so far. For instance, when my girls know that I have time that I could spend with them, they begin guiding me early in the day. They tell me “mom, please walk us to school, let’s chat.” For children closeness to their parents is vital. They know that’s how in the end we will always manage to identify with them.

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