Parent Involvement Workers: Going Above and Beyond for Students and Parents

The following guest blog post is written by Amika Guillaume, Principal at Cesar Chavez & Green Oaks Academy in East Palo Alto. Amika writes about the Parent Involvement Worker Program, which places three Spanish-speaking mothers at two schools in East Palo Alto to act as a liason between parents and educators. PVF has operated this community initiative for 13 years.

There are those who do a “good job”; then there are those who do much more than just “their job.”  Cesar Chavez Academy is a Title 1 School in Program Improvement.  We have over 95% students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, over 85% second language learners and by the latest definition of the 2010 Census, we have as many as 50% homeless students.

In a school such as ours you must have colleagues who do a great job of stepping back, looking at the various needs of the entire school community and identifying key ways to make the greatest impact.  Nancy Alvarez and Imelda Jovel – the parent involvement workers at Cesar Chavez Academy – are not just great, but awesome.  Their impact on our community is immeasurable.  Not only have they made lasting and effective relationships with all faculty and staff, they have also gone above and beyond to engage parents in giving back to our school.  It is through their powerful relationships that they are able to do so much more, efficiently and thoughtfully.

Bill Somerville at Cesar Chavez Academy with Parent Involvement Workers Nancy Alvarez (left) and Imelda Jovel (right).

Bill Somerville at Cesar Chavez Academy with Parent Involvement Workers Nancy Alvarez (left) and Imelda Jovel (right).

The “magical ladies” as they are known, have a long list of accomplishments.  When a student is unable to be reached, with telephone numbers that are outdated or turned off, fear not, they will make a home visit.  Is there a student who has missed too many days of school?  They will meet  with the parent and explain the importance of good attendance and the dangers of truancy in a way that truly helps the parent understand their part in this educational system that is likely very different than the one they experienced in their home country.  If there are parents who only speak Spanish, but would like to engage in parent/teacher conferences, they are always on hand to translate.  Is the registration process for after school programs, extra opportunities such as weekend science camps or workshops, even high school registration daunting and confusing?  They will patiently and deftly walk any parent who needs the help, through the entire process until it is complete.

Nancy and Imelda have the wonderful balance of being professional and personable.  We take great pride in helping our parents maximize the various opportunities available in our community.  This is only possible thanks to our “magical ladies” Imelda and Nancy.  I cannot even imagine running a school, especially one such as ours, without them.

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Bill Somerville and Amika Guillaume at Cesar Chavez Academy

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