El Pueblo Unido is a new bi-weekly series on the Being Latino blog dedicated to promoting the efforts of small non-profit organizations that support and empower the Latino community around the nation. Find out what’s being done and how YOU can get involved… El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!
PARENTS STEP AHEAD/PADRES UN PASO ADELANTE
Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
“Don’t allow anyone or anything to make you think that your kids can’t get to college. Not your income, education or immigration status. Just get involved. Don’t sit at home thinking everything will be ok.” That is the message that Lupita Colmenero, founder of Parents Step Ahead, wants to send to families in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas and nationwide. So far, she and her staff of two have been successfully empowering more than 3,500 parents each year with this important message.
Parents Step Ahead (PSA) believes that the only way to break the cycle of negative statistics plaguing Latino youth is through successful collaboration between communities, teachers, students and parents. PSA helps to foster these collaborations and directly bridge the information gap that many Latino parents face when attempting to support their child’s education and success. “If you ask a Latino parent, ‘do you want the best education for your child?’ they will all say yes, but the question is do they know how to get them there?” asks Colmenero. This is where Parents Step Ahead begins their mission to, “recognize, educate, enable, and empower parents to take a proactive role in the educational and personal development of their children.”
WHAT THEY DO ~ EN ACCION
Through partnerships with seven schools across the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area, Parents Step Ahead moves beyond language, education and immigration barriers to support parents as they navigate the difficult education system. Their free, customized, bilingual seminars bring together parents, students and teachers, to participate in open discussions with experts from the community. Seminars cover a range of topics such as the importance of parental involvement, financial literacy, access to higher education, gang prevention, immigration rights, and bullying. According to Valerie Reyes, Director of Special Events and Programs for PSA, each event is well attended, often by over 500 parents. At the conclusion of each event, Parents Step Ahead raffles a computer off to one deserving family. The computer is a vital tool for both parents and students in the education process. The raffle began when PSA discovered that even in this digital age over 65% of the families they serve have never owned a computer.
WHO THEY SERVE ~ EL PUEBLO
Parents Step Ahead understands that the sooner they get parents involved the better and so most of the schools they partner with each year are elementary or middle schools. The majority are also designated Title I schools and approximately 80% of the families served are considered low-income in spite of parents often holding more than one job. PSA also recognizes that Latino parents are not the only ones in need of educational empowerment. Their mission and events are open to all families; however, over 50% of the parents they work with are Spanish monolingual and many are immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American nations.
Each year Parents Step Ahead hosts a special ceremony to recognize the “Parent’s of the Year.” It is a chance to celebrate successes and acknowledge individuals who are truly living the mission of the organization. Recent parents who were recognized include an 80 year old woman who was raising her great-granddaughter because sadly both her daughter and granddaughter were in jail. The woman wrote that she was thankful she was given this opportunity with her great-granddaughter and now understood how important it was for her to be involved in the education process. She believes things will turn out very differently. Another parent recognized was a single father from Colombia who was raising his six children alone. Even without a formal education and a difficult job as a construction worker he was able to be consistently involved in his children’s education. That year he had seen his daughter complete high school as Valedictorian, and his son, who had skipped ahead one grade, as Salutatorian in the same graduating class. Wow!
BEHIND THE SCENES ~ EL ESFUERZO
Managed by a powerful staff of three Latina women, Parents Step Ahead recognizes that their success is dependent on the support of their volunteers. They recently piloted a program for teachers to get more involved in parent recruitment called the Ambassador Initiative and have already noticed a positive difference in parent turnout at events. Parents Step Ahead was born from an idea in 2006 by Dallas based El Hispano News. They continue to partner closely with El Hispano News and have also received much support from their local McDonalds, Walmart, and Educational Testing Services. These partnerships have been essential in the face of the nations struggling economy when available funding sources for small organizations has become scarce.
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED! ~ UNIDOS!
Hey Being Latino members, if you are in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area, Parents Step Ahead could use your support working events, with administrative duties, marketing and more. In addition, EVERYONE can support Parents Step Ahead by becoming their friend on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/parentsstepahead) and by remembering to take 2 minutes to cast your vote for them in the “Chase Community Giving” contest, which begins this June 15th on Facebook (http://apps.facebook.com/chasecommunitygiving/home/rules.) The top 200 vote receivers will divide a prize of $5 million dollars!
I would like to thank Lupita Colmenero and Valerie Reyes for taking time from their work to speak with me and sharing their efforts with the Being Latino community.
Pa’lante Siempre Pa’lante!
Parents Step Ahead, Padres Un Paso Adelante
2102 Empire Central
Dallas, TX 75235
Ph. (214) 357-2186
Fax (214) 357-2195
by Charlotte Melanie