Helping parents ensure their children’s success by building their leadership and creating community

He thought he couldn’t help his kids with their homework because he doesn’t speak English, so he disconnected and didn’t get involved in their education. Then Roberto, a pseudonym we are using since this father prefers to remain anonymous, found out about UnidosUS’s Padres Comprometidos program through our Affiliate Dominico-American Society of Queens (DASQ). Now this father hasn’t only discovered that he can help his children with their school work. He’s become an advocate for them.

When Roberto learned that his kid’s school wanted to demote him to a different grade, he now knew, after having participated in Padres Comprometidos, that he had rights as a parent, and that he could go to the school and defend his child. He went in, asked for an interpreter and discuss with the teacher the reasons why they thought he had to change classes. After a productive discussion, they came to the conclusion that his child didn’t actually need to change classes, and Roberto didn’t only feel happy, but accomplished. His voice was heard. His voice mattered, and he became more than just a visitor in the school landscape.

Long-term student success

In the 2018–2019 school year, Padres Comprometidos, Engaging Latino Parents for Long-Term Student Success (PC) graduated 710 parents in their curriculum, partnering with EduFuturo (Arlington, Virginia), the Shelby County Schools (Memphis, Tennessee), and seven of our Affiliates:

Each of these Affiliates have encouraging stories of success from our parents: they learn valuable lessons and get access to resources to help their children to be successful, and they start thinking about higher education for their children even while they’re still in elementary school. “Thanks to Padres Comprometidos, we are able to really know our parents: how they think and how they act,” says Jose Morillo, facilitator of PC at the Dominico-American Society of Queens. “They love the program because they’ve never experienced anything like it. The schools and parent associations don’t offer a curriculum like this, and it has helped our parents a lot.”

Padres Comprometidos, a program made possible thanks to the support of State Farm, reaches parents who are traditionally not involved in the school system because of linguistic and cultural barriers, their economic background, the negative perception schools may have about parents or vice versa. And it’s done in a culturally relevant way, helping parents understand the United States public school system, developing goals for their children to ensure they attend college, understanding the academic requirements for college readiness, and modeling behaviors at home that encourage and promote learning.

The Dominico-American Society of Queens team at one of their Padres Comprometidos‘ sessions.

“We ask parents that they read with their children for 30 minutes before going to bed, something that they didn’t used to do, and thanks to which their grades are improving,” Morillo continues. But another key piece this curriculum offers is leadership development: as we saw, the father protagonist of our story learned how to advocate for his children because of PC. “He is more decisive to go to school and defend his children,” Morillo tells us. This dad is one example, just as these two moms we featured last spring: they have a very powerful story in the development of their leadership journey, which took them to be selected to participate in the Ed Trust Family Fellowship.

Unconditional support

The Dominico-American Society of Queens first got involved with UnidosUS through our Red Nose Day initiative, and through it they learned about Padres Comprometidos. Executive Director José Tejeda reached out to our Education team because he wanted to be part of the program, and Jose L. Rodriguez, UnidosUS Director of Parent and Community Engagement, recalls their eagerness to participate in the program.

“They came to a training a few years ago in Arizona, and they felt overwhelmed by all the information we provide for this curriculum,” Rodriguez explains. However, DASQ never desisted, and they kept on coming to every training, learning from UnidosUS and other Affiliates, and they are now one of our most successful organizations implementing PC: this school year they enrolled 100 parents, and each one of them completed the program. Rodriguez attributes the participation of parent facilitators—who have also been through the program—has been a considerable part of their success.

PC’s success at DASQ can also be attributed to the unconditional support that UnidosUS, specifically Jose Rodriguez, has provided to our Affiliate to ensure the program delivers what has promised our parents. Through technical assistance, phone calls and emails, reviewing agendas and presentations, mocking those presentations, and more, Rodriguez has supported DASQ, like many other organizations, in their work with Padres Comprometidos. “I’ve heard from Affiliates how afraid they are to call and ask for help because they don’t want to be seen as if they don’t know what they are doing,” Rodriguez explains. “However, I always tell them to reach out because we are here to help, to guide, and to ensure we are offering our parents what they need to help their children be successful in school.”

DASQ’s Executive Director recognized the value Rodriguez and UnidosUS was bringing not only to their PC program, but their organization in general, and wanted to acknowledge this significant aid. “This program has been very successful for us,” Tejeda says, “and it’s because of Jose Rodriguez’s leadership. That’s why we want to ensure that our 2019 National Educational Leadership Award goes to him.” This Friday, November 1, Rodriguez will be presented with the award at DASQ’s 26th Annversary Gala, Our Vision, Their Future.

“Reading the reports, you don’t always get the appreciation these organizations have for our programming,” Rodriguez says. “But this award validates the work we are doing with our Affiliates and Padres Comprometidos, for which I am very proud,” he expresses with happiness and gratitude.

A step beyond

The goal is to work with parents to support their children’s success, but PC has gone further than that and “it has built a support network of parents who are strangers in a different land,” as Rodriguez puts it. “We’ve seen it time and time again, this turn that PC takes, even if the program is not designed to be that support network with parents become resources among themselves.”

Padres Comprometido has also become an opportunity for our Affiliates to build trust with our community. Through PC, for example, DASQ got to know the struggles these families face, which resulted in providing them with other services they needed. “We’ve been very successful in helping how our parents live. In our community, there are families that live with three other families in one apartment. This makes the development of a child more difficult,” Morillo continues. That’s why they have worked directly with parents and partners around the community to show these families how they can build their finances to get out of this situation and provide a better environment for their children’s growth.

Padres Comprometidos brings families together to ensure their children’s success.

This shows the reach and impact of Padres Comprometidos, making a case for DASQ’s decision to honor Jose Rodrigruez and this program with their National Educational Leadership Award: “I wasn’t expecting it, and I’m honored to be this year’s  awardee. Thank you to the whole DASQ leadership and team,” Rodriguez concluded.

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