A story from Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Successful Transitions: Integrated Care for Children, Youth, and their Families.
Yolanda Peña and Raquel Garay, two Latina mothers with children in Eagle Point School District in Southern Oregon, understand the barriers parents in their community face when trying to advocate for their children’s education. Such barriers include lack of understanding of the school system’s structure, language barriers, family responsibilities and disconnection from the community.
Peña and Garay currently serve as the president and vice president of the Migrant Education Parent Advisory Council (PAC) in their district. Migrant Education Program of Southern Oregon is part of Successful Transitions, one of ten Collaborates that in Northwest Health Foundation's Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Cohort working to build power for kids and families.
One of Successful Transitions’ goals is to empower Latino early learners, students and their families by providing parent leadership and advocacy opportunities. Through Successful Transitions, Garay and Peña had the opportunity to attend Northwest Health Foundation’s Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gatherings in Astoria, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington in 2016. Participating in these leadership development activities encouraged them to take on various leadership roles in their community, but especially in their children’s school district.
Learning about the issues other Collaboratives are dealing with has helped Peña realize that every community in our region experiences different barriers, and it’s crucial for Latino students and their families to share their personal experiences and to be represented in decision-making spaces.
Garay and Peña know from personal experience that navigating the educational system can be intimidating for many parents. Being the president and vice president for their district’s PAC has allowed them to voice the concerns of many Latino and migrant parents, and to have a direct influence in the decisions made regarding their children’s education. Garay acknowledges that it can be intimidating for many parents to speak up and advocate for their children, but she urges them to advocate for their children and their community anyway. She motivates other parents to become involved in their children’s education by helping them see the impact it has in their children’s academic and social performance.
By becoming active participants and working closely with the school districts, parents are not only advocating for their families, but for the community as a whole.