Minority parent involvement

U-46 hopes to train more black, Latino parent leaders
By Tara Garcia Mathewson

Elgin Area School District U-46 is looking for its next group of Latino and especially black parent leaders.

The district has had more success in recruiting Latinos for its Hispanic Parent Leadership Institute than for the black equivalent. Last year, organizers received almost double the applicants as it could accept into the Hispanic group but only half for the African American Parent Leadership Institute.

At an information session about the programs Tuesday night, only Latino parents showed up.

“The African-American community has just been so hard to reach out to,” said Karla Guzmán, parent/community outreach coordinator.

The Hispanic institute started in 2010 with the African-American one following in 2011. Though the district’s student population is about 7 percent black and half Latino, Superintendent José Torres didn’t see that diversity reflected in districtwide roles like the Citizens Advisory Council and its various committees. Torres asked Guzmán and Karen Fox, former chief of family and community engagement, to start the leadership programs to train minority parents and get them involved.

Parents will meet one Saturday morning per month from October to May in the first year of the program, which focuses primarily on giving future leaders information about the district as well as basic leadership skills training.

The group meets every other month for the second and final year of the program, when parents are asked to do hands-on activities putting those leadership skills to work by solving real problems.

Tomás Figueroa, an Elgin dad of Highland Elementary students, recently completed his first year of the program. He spoke Tuesday, encouraging other parents to apply.

“Like most parents, I wanted to get more involved in my kids’ education and find out who’s making the decisions on what they’re learning,” Figueroa said. “All those questions were answered. I would recommend it to everybody.”

Read the full story here.

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