[Image description: Latino parents gather around a conference table.]
In Washington County, 27% of children 0-6 are Latino. Yet Latino children account for more than half of children in poverty.
Here’s another shocking stat: Although 36% of youth and children in western Washington County are Latino, Hillsboro and Forest Grove school districts’ boards of directors are both 100% white.
This is unacceptable. This means that the Latino community, which is by far the largest ethnic/racial minority community in Oregon, is not represented at these important decision-making tables and does not have a hand in creating the policies that impact Latino kids and families.
Enter Creciendo Juntos. Led by Vision Action Network and made up of collaborative partners from education and human services sectors, Creciendo Juntos engages Latino parents to become active in their kids’ education and involved in the community, with an end goal of breaking the cycle of childhood poverty. Latino parents who are currently active in this initiative live in high-poverty neighborhoods and attend areas within the six elementary schools with the greatest percentages of Latino children in the Forest Grove and Hillsboro School Districts; three in Forest Grove: Cornelius, Echo Shaw and Fern Hill; and three in Hillsboro: Lincoln Street, Reedville and W. L. Henry. In 2012-13, each of these elementary schools had an enrollment of 66-86% Hispanic students and a free and reduced lunch eligibility of 75-85%.
According to Creciendo Juntos staff, “There is a great hunger among Latinos to work together for a better life.”
Over the last couple years, Creciendo Juntos has strengthened Latino leadership through its Advocacy Team composed of one bilingual staff member and two Latino participants from each participating partner. Their meetings are focused on educating and empowering Latinos, and are all held in Spanish. Topics covered range from citizenship and immigration rights to navigating the school system and volunteering on boards and committees.
With the newfound knowledge gained in these gatherings, parents become more comfortable participating at their kids’ schools and advocating for their kids’ education. Some of the parents involved in Creciendo Juntos are also eager to join parent advisory committees at the district level, and possibly even run for city council positions.
Moving forward, the parents who started with Creciendo Juntos will become the teachers, helping new parents become familiar with school and community systems, sharing a vision of a thriving Western Washington county where Latino children and their families are healthy, successful in school, life and engaged in their community.
Creciendo Juntos was one of Northwest Health Foundation's partners during our Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Organizing Grant Year.