Elisa Reyes and Alexander Saenz are thrilled to participate in Read With Me/ Lea Conmigo and see the benefit of reading books together with their children. Their youngest son, Achilles, participates in the program at Leo Politi Elementary School in LAUSD Local District 4. On a weekly basis, he brings home a backpack filled with books containing award-winning, multicultural children’s literature. “I really want to stress how important the Read With Me program is to our family,” said Elisa Reyes. “The benefit of having books to read at home has made a big impact in my children’s learning capability. Having these wonderful books in our home motivates him to read so he can learn more about the characters and the stories in the books he brings home.” Elisa and Alexander feel empowered by participating in the program. “The key to a bright and successful future for our children is through the education they get at school, but they also need resources at home to support them. Families In Schools helps my children shine with confidence because they love to read."
Invited four years ago by the Lennox School District, and with support from the California Community Foundation, FIS has developed a partnership with school and district staff, which has shaped a comprehensive parent engagement strategy for each school and the district as a whole. The relationship with FIS has also guided school board members in developing policies that embrace parents as genuine partners in support of student achievement. Dr. Jo Ann Isken, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services of Lennox School District (shown with Lennox School Board President Marisol Cruz and Superintendent Bruce McDaniel) credits the FIS partnership for improving standardized test scores and increasing English Learner reclassification rates, priorities of state and federal education reform efforts. Teachers remark how the partnership is also yielding a deeper level of parent involvement at school and at home. As evidence, attendance at parent-teacher conferences is at nearly 90 percent, and teachers note that parents are asking more informed questions about their children’s progress. Lennox parents praise their partnership with FIS and emphasize that the various learning opportunities have empowered them with confidence, knowledge and skills to better support their children’s learning.
As an immigrant from a small town in southern Mexico, Maria Orellana was certain of one thing – that education was critical for her children’s success in the United States. With little formal education herself, Maria was not sure how to help her two daughters get into the best colleges to secure their futures. Several years ago, she learned about the FIS Mother/ Daughter program, later renamed GOT College! Her youngest daughter, Daisy, was in sixth grade at Sun Valley Middle School and her eldest, Giovanna, was attending another school. The program brings together parents and their children, and Maria made sure her daughters attended every meeting at Sun Valley Middle School. With each meeting, Maria gained a little more know-how and a lot more confidence. Today, Daisy is looking forward to college upon completing her senior year at Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley; Giovanna is in her freshman year at UCLA. Her eyes beaming with pride and gratitude, Maria reflects on the GOT College! experience: "[It] gave me, in my mind, my dream come true."
Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), one of ten organizations participating in the Families Improving Education (FIE) Initiative, is making an impact in San Bernardino. As an intermediary of the James Irvine Foundation, FIS supports COPE’s mission to build the capacity of local congregations, lay leaders, and families to participate in local efforts that impact education policies. Reverend Samuel Casey, Executive Director, explains that COPE hopes to develop a strong partnership with both the school system and parents in order to “close the pipeline from playground to prison” for so many of San Bernardino’s youth. Aided by FIS staff, COPE’s education advocacy has greatly been enhanced and expanded. COPE leaders attribute their organization’s growth to FIS support and FIE resources, and are increasingly more confident in their capacity to lead their coalition of congregations and to engage parents in supporting their children’s education. "We now mobilize and implement a variety of strategies. We have learned to understand what the education data are telling us, and rely on data and research in making our case to district officials. As an organization, we have acquired increased confidence to engage key decision makers within the school system, as well as other stakeholders, in interactions that will ultimately lead to long-term systems improvement for students."– Reverend Samuel Casey, Executive Director, COPE
Embracing the Present
Magdalena Vidal and her three daughters in grades 3, 9 and 11 know first-hand just how key parent engagement is to student achievement. Over the course of 5 years, Ms. Vidal has participated in numerous FIS programs – like College Knowledge Academy and Pasos al Éxito – that support parent involvement in their children’s education, and ensure student academic success. As a result, Ms. Vidal is now equipped with the tools needed to support her daughters’ education and help them be ready for college.
“FIS helped my family acquire new knowledge and skills such as how to prepare for college. I used to think that college was too expensive, so we never talked about it at home, but thanks to FIS I’ve learned that my children can go to college if they get good grades, participate in leadership activities in their community and seek financial assistance. Now my daughters have higher grades in school and goals, and are preparing for college.”
—Magdalena Vidal, Parent
Inspiring the Future
Monica Martínez is the mother of a fourth grader at Winnetka Elementary and an FIS Parent Ambassador. Through FIS, Ms. Martínez learned to improve her communication with her son’s school, his teachers and the community. Today she is an advocate who works with a parent support group to help students reach their academic goals and graduation. She advocates not just for her son, but also for other students and parents on the school campus.
“FIS has helped me access resources and feel comfortable about approaching my local school. FIS staff and programs have helped me lose my fear of talking to school administrators and teachers. Many times, parents are afraid to speak up because of education and language barriers, but through FIS I’ve learned to shift my focus to my son and his academic needs. There are so many programs that begin at birth that open doors for us on how to help our children, other children and guide their parents.”
—Monica Martínez, Parent