“All parents, every parent, wants their child to have a successful education,” said Denys Vigil, co-founder of a unique program in the Boulder Valley School District -- Parents Advocating Responsibly in the Interest of Their Youngsters: PARITY.
The program was born out of a need to engage Latino parents in supporting their children’s success in education. Through a collaborative approach, parents meet in a circle to share their obstacles, learn where to get help in schools and create a network of support. The goal is to help parents develop the confidence to become active members in their children’s education. Participation of Latino families has increased in the last five years and a new group of parents graduated from PARITY on May 12.
PARITY started seven years ago and is the brainchild of Tikki Heublein and Denys Vigil, who studied the extensive research on parent engagement done in the last 25-30 years and adopted it to help bridge the gap of engagement in the Latino community. Although PARITY has been implemented for Spanish-speaking families, the curriculum is also available in English, and can be beneficial to anyone who may be interested.
“When parents are meaningfully involved it doesn’t matter what their income is, what their language is; when they are meaningfully involved, their kids improve,” affirmed Tikki Heublein. “There is a myth in our school systems that Latino parents don’t care about their kids education, and that is a lie,” she added.
What is true is that cultural differences in how parents approach education may be at the root of that assumption.
“Parents in Mexico and parts of Latin America are discouraged from participating (in their child’s school activities), which is very different from here in the U.S., where we want parents to be involved,” Denys Vigil said“Latino parents need to know, and believe in themselves, that they can have an influence in their child’s education.”
“We, Latino parents, don’t like people telling us what to do, we like people telling us how to do it. Tell me how to do it, and I will do it,” explained Ere Juarez, a parent and PARITY educator.
“Education is something so big, encompases so many things, when we start to give information to parents, they start to add things, to change. There is a transformation from having the education of our countries of origin for so many years, then coming here (to the U.S.) and suddenly having to switch, is incredible, it is a beautiful thing,” Juarez said. “Suddenly seeing parents who had never been to their kids school, going, asking, advocating for their children, that is making the switch.” It is this cultural shift that has helped Latino parents make a difference.
“The program has taught me to navigate the system and to overcome fear” Marina Diaz said. She has graduated twice from the program, as the curriculum has a general level PARITY 1 and a high-school level called PARITY 2. Diaz credits the program with helping her to transform from a disengaged parent into an involved one. She invites all families to get involved.
“The program is going to enrich our entire life, it is going to help our children reach the goals of higher education and to give them a better quality of life,” Diaz said.
BVSD parent and PARITY graduate Oscar Flores has seen “parents who arrived (at the program) knowing nothing, understanding nothing, they think that it is as simple as in our countries of origin, where you just leave your child at school, and see them later. I have seen parents be capable of tending to direct needs with the district; make an appointment with teachers, or counselors. It is incredible the level of confidence that the program gives to the individual. And this is big. Because when you can change the course of a family you perhaps can contribute to a new generation having the great benefits of trust in education and to make them have a higher potential."