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Creating a Parent Mentor Program In Your District

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Districts often struggle to successfully engage the parents of English learners. But efforts to creatively and strategically involve EL families can result in students who are better supported at home and in school and parents who are empowered to educate not only themselves, but others in their community.

One district in Southern California has created an EL parent-mentorship program where parents attend regular training sessions. Topics include distance learning and reopening plans, how students can earn recognition for being bilingual, navigating state funding for ELs, and accessing higher education. 

We spoke with the District Director Francisco Meza and District Counselor Elba Solis, who have been instrumental in developing the training curriculum and overseeing the successful piloting of the program. They share key learnings, future plans, and how their program can serve as a model for districts across the country.

3 Steps for Creating Parent Mentor Programs in Your District 

1. Align the program with the vision and mission of your district.

Francisco and Elba emphasize that doing so enabled them to ensure support from district stakeholders. Their district’s mission is “to achieve & maintain excellence in providing a comprehensive education for all students.” Since the mission of their parent program was aligned with this, they were able to tap into existing district funding, resources and staff members and allowed them to create a more robust program.

2. Allow parents to drive.

From the beginning, ask parents what their needs are and what areas of focus the training curriculum should cover. This increases buy-in and engagement, and ensures that parents and their students get maximum benefits from participating in the program. Creating a program that is truly parent-driven - structured around parent-to-parent outreach and mentoring - also results in a sustainable model that utilizes the existing trust and communication between parents in a district.

3. Meet parents where they are.

Francisco and Elba found that when the pandemic began, parents were overwhelmed by all of the "new” aspects of school. Instead of adding to this, they found existing structures in their district (i.e. monthly parent open house) and built on what was already being done.  Providing a virtual or video recorded option greatly increased participation. Allowing for flexibility and making trainings more accessible via Zoom means more parents are able to fit the program into their schedule and increase participation.

Ready to get your program off the ground? Listen to the entire interview here or wherever you get your podcasts. Then check out the resources below.

Francisco Mezabegan his career in Whittier Union as an ELD teacher in 1989 at La Serna High School and then was elevated to the position of Expanded Horizons Director in 1995. He also served as the Assistant Principal of Business and Activities at Pioneer High School.  For the past 18 years, he has served in various leadership roles, including as a principal and district director for the South Whittier School District. He earned his B.A. from California State University Fullerton and a Masters in Teaching English to Students of Other Languages.  He earned his Administrative Credential from Chapman University.  

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Whittier, Elba Solis is a proud Latina and first generation college graduate. She earned her B.S. from the University of California Los Angeles and a Master’s Degree in Educational Counseling with PPS Credential from National University. She completed her Counseling Internships hours at Cal hi in 2013 and began her career in Whittier Union as College Advisement Specialist in 2015. She also served as Senior Admissions Advisor and Program Specialist at American Career College prior to starting her career as Counselor. 

For more resources on this topic, check out our Engaging and Partnering with Families Toolkit.

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