Academy teaches parents how to promote college education for their children and themselves.
By Y. Arroyo
A new organization that helps parents pursue higher education for their families met for the first time Saturday morning at this college.
The Parent Leadership Academy, A partnership among the Alamo Colleges, ESC-Region 20 and SAISD is designed to empower parents to be leaders and advocates in the education of their families.
The program can transform lives, President Robert Vela said in room 218 of the nursing complex.
“Learning is super power,” he told the crowd of 48. “It transforms lives, it transforms families, it can transform generations and it’ll transform this community.”
The academy will also serve to increase access and knowledge to a college-going culture.
“It’s not about if you’re going to college, but where,” said Selene Garza, SAISD’s senior director of family engagement.
Yvonne Martinez is a stay-at-home mother of three 7-year-old triplets, a 15-year-old and a 25-year-old with a speech delay disability.
Martinez looks forward to seeing how the Parent Leadership Academy can help her family and herself.
“I want to show them (her kids) that I’m more than Mom, I want to be more than mom. I want to bring more to my family,” Martinez said. “That’s why I’m taking these courses.”
Helen Torres, parental network coordinator with the Alamo Colleges, and Kimberly Baumgardner, ESC family engagement specialist, greeted parents as they came in the room.
Torres recruited the parents by visiting PTA meetings, principal coffees and school fairs at SAISD schools.
Region 20 recruited parents from their service center, which helps parents with children with disabilities.
SAISD recruited parents from its family engagement department, which helps families get out of poverty and also offers parenting classes.
Vela said he wanted to be sure every child in this community has the opportunity to receive a higher education.
Parents play a big role because not enough young people are finishing school or enrolling in colleges.
“This is the first of its kind and I can already tell from meeting with my partners, this is going to take off,” Vela told the parents. “You’ve taken a phenomenal step forward.”
Dr. Stanton Lawrence, assistant superintendent for administration at San Antonio Independent School District, and Carolyn Castillo, ESC associate director of administrative and instructional services, also spoke at the event.
Both said they were able to make drastic changes in their school districts by getting parents engaged as well as the community.
After the speeches, Torres asked the parents to stand, introduce themselves and share what they’re excited about.
Most of the parents had children with special needs such as autism, a speech delay or Down syndrome.
Although everyone’s situation is different, parents had one thing in common: wanting to learn how they can help their kids and be an advocate for their education.
“Everyone will learn from each other,” Baumgardner said.
The program’s goal is to have these people’s families become college-ready families, Torres said.
To graduate, parents must attend all eight classes and two elective courses.
Parents also must create a portfolio of their coursework and other achievements.
They can also decide to include the portfolio in scholarship applications for continuing education.
Graduation will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. Dec. 8 in Koehler House.
The spring deadline for the Parent Leadership Academy will be the first week of November.
Parents who want to sign up for the spring academy can call Torres at 210-486-0947 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.