Many parents don’t know how to help their children with schoolwork, interact with teachers and principals, or interpret their children’s test results. This uncertainty intensifies for immigrant parents, who may face language barriers and lack knowledge about the U.S. school system. In addition, cultural norms in the country of origin may have discouraged asking questions of teachers.
Those uncertainties got blasted away this fall for 19 parents at Horace Greeley Elementary School in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. National Louis University teamed with the Chicago Public Schools’ Community School Initiative to empower them as parent leaders.
NLU’s Monica Haydee Ramos, National Louis’ director of family and community engagement, led the effort, known as the Academy of Parents in Leadership. The parents attended a 10-week series of interactive presentations, and executed a project: creating a Parent-Teacher Organization for the school.
As a bonus, NLU granted two hours of college credit in the humanities to the parents who hold high school degrees or GEDs.
During the various interactive sessions:
- National Louis University’s Carlos Azcoitia, Ed.D., talked about the American education system and its history, and explained essential data on quality schools.
- Kristin Lems, Ed.D., of National Louis University presented strategies for effective communication and homework support.
- Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro of the Latino Policy Forum illustrated the importance of understanding the Common Core Standards to better support children at home.
- Professor Arturo Castro from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM) in Chicago guided the parents in project management.
The Academy of Parents in Leadership sessions helped parents acquire professional skills required for engaging effectively as a parent-leader. They also created a social network of adults committed to improving education at the school level.
The APL program also trained parents on literacy strategies, social-emotional child development, family-school community engagement and civic leadership, all to better equip them to nurture and advocate for their children’s education.
On Dec. 15, Greeley School administrators recognized the parents’ accomplishments at a ceremony and breakfast reception.
Parent Leader Isabel Santos welcomed the graduates and guests from National Louis University and the Chicago Public Schools. Ignacio Lopez, Ed.D., vice provost of academic programs and faculty development at National Louis, shared his story and how his parents guided his educational pathway.
Carlos Azcoitia, Ed.D., applauded the parent leaders’ efforts and noted the importance of school, family and community influences on children. Parent Leader Gabriela Montoya talked about the group’s experiences, and Parent Leader Gabriela Rosendo encouraged all the parents to become leaders.
Carlos Azcoitia, principal of Greeley Elementary, his father, Carlos Azcoitia, Ed.D. of National Louis, and Monica Haydee Ramos presented group members with their certificates of participation.
Following are parents’ comments about the Academy of Parents in Leadership:
“The (NLU) parent program was a great experience, because I learned to be able to work together with other parents so that our children have better success in their future. Because when parents are involved in the education of children, they are better in school. And parents who are involved in school will go far, too!” C.V.
“I am proud to have been part of NLU Academy of Parents in Leadership in the Greeley community. The program was rewarding for me. I had the opportunity to learn from people who are characterized by their leadership and charisma in the field of education. I was deepened by the comments, concerns and ideas of parents who like me have the same common goal: the well-being and development of their children. I can only say thank you for inspiring me to be a better person, a better parent, and be able to help others” F.D.
“I want to share the meaning of being part of this group in the NLU Academy of Parents in Leadership. All I learned is essential in the future of the academic progress of my daughters. This is a new beginning for my family. I learned educational tools to support my daughters and our school. These will help us achieve new goals. Leadership is part of our every day!” G.R.
“As a student and parent I want to say that this program is GREAT!!The Academy of Parents in Leadership helped us become better, organized parents, using our skills and knowledge to create a relationship and cooperation between other parents and the school community. Personally, I learned how to improve the way I can guide my child in the coming years, and also learned the importance of being involved in the school every day. This will help to improve not just my child’s education, but all and every single one of the school kids. My hope is to get more parents involved in this program, and together make an impact in the school programs and on the kids’ future.” A.S.