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Road Map Region Parent Forum

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The first Road Map Region Parent Forum on Saturday, April 20, was a big success, drawing more than 850 parents and hundreds of children to Foster High School in Tukwila for a day of workshops, inspirational speakers and an interactive Resource Fair. The purpose of this first-of-its-kind, regional event was to give parents the information they need to help their children do well in school – from cradle to college and career.

The Parent Forum was hosted by the Road Map Project, a community-wide effort to dramatically improve student achievement from cradle to college and career in South King County and South Seattle. Road Map Project partners, including nonprofit organizations, public health and housing agencies, school districts and parents, collaborated and co-designed the forum to address needs identified by parents.

“Parents are a child’s first teacher. Parents are key to student success. Parents want to be involved with the schools as a valued partner. We need to talk less and listen more to the people closest to the children,” said featured speaker Norman B. Rice, President and CEO of the Seattle Foundation, during the forum’s opening assembly. Other speakers included Highline Public Schools parent Patricia Gonzalez, Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton and Tukwila School Board President Mark Wahlstrom.

Every effort was made to remove barriers that would prevent parents from attending the forum – attendees had access to simultaneous translation, child care, transportation and food from different cultures.

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The event’s workshops were well-attended and spanned many topics, including the exploration of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) with Radio Disney, understanding the school system, understanding the importance of early learning, preparing for college and advocating for children with special needs. Parents were also given the opportunity to connect with school district leadership in discussion sessions.

Throughout the day, parents and children explored the Resource Fair, which gave parents access to practical resources, including dental screenings and job training, in addition to the opportunity to talk with incredible experts in many fields, such as brain development and robotics.

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Parents also had a chance to win great prizes, such as a Microsoft Surface, Target gift cards, passes to family attractions, as well as iPad Minis from Radio Disney.

The Parent Forum would not have been possible without planning and volunteer support from hundreds of people across the region.

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Featured speakers

The Parent Forum got off to a great start with help from two featured speakers: Norman B. Rice, President and CEO of The Seattle Foundation, and Patricia Gonzalez, a parent of Highline Public Schools students. Their messages were inspirational, powerful and energizing. Below, you will find the text of their speeches.

Patricia Gonzalez (English):

My name is Patricia Gonzalez and I’m from Mexico. I have been married for 17 years and have two daughters and one son. Patty, Hillary & Abraham. They all attend different schools in the Highline School District: Elementary, Middle School and High School.  I am pleased to be here today to share my experience navigating the school system and how I have helped my children have better grades.  When my oldest daughter started kindergarten, I began worrying about her education.  I have always had a great interest in her graduating and getting a college degree.

My concerns began when I didn’t know how to understand the education system in this country. Even though, I always attend all the meetings, I did not know how to help her.  I thought that her teachers would help her just merely because they were her teachers.

Even though the education system is different in our home countries, through my experience, I have seen that all parents face similar barriers.

When my other two children started to attend school, I realized that I needed to look for more information, that if I didn’t interest myself in their education, nobody else would. That only we, their parents know their attributes and abilities and the areas where they need help. We are responsible for being informed, participating in the meetings and applying what we learn. And for this, there are many ways for us to communicate: through school meetings, visits to our children’s classrooms, calling our children’s teachers and also through email.  Truly, even though at the beginning it wasn’t easy, by regularly visiting my children’s school and getting involved as a volunteer this helped me a lot. And even though on some occasions things have not been very positive, I will assure you that sooner or later your efforts will bear fruit.

Communication between teachers, parents and students is very important. We as parents must ask direct and clear questions. Questions specifically focused on the subject at hand or our concerns.  Questions need to be asked as often as you desire. The more we ask, the more we learn.  I know that each family is unique, just as each of our children is unique. We all have different ways of learning and applying what we learn. Even though at times we feel that we aren’t doing enough, I’m here to tell you: we are. Because as we experience our children’s positive progress, how they are growing and the expectations that they set for themselves, at that moment, we recognize that our time and effort has paid off.

Even though it’s not an easy task, we need to have the determination and conviction that our children as students deserve a good education and that this can only be done as a team.  Parents, students, teachers and school personnel.

You are the leaders in your homes, with great skills and most importantly a big dream. A dream that our children receive a great education and have a successful future. Attending this conference is only the beginning.  Let us not just listen to the information that is presented to us today.  Let us apply it today and consistently from this moment forward.  Our children deserve it!

Patricia Gonzalez (Spanish):

Mi nombre es Patricia Gonzalez y soy de México. Tengo 17 años de casada, tengo dos niñas y un niño, sus nombres son Patty, Hillary y Abraham. Los cuales atienden diferentes escuelas: primaria, secundaria y preparatoria en el distrito de Highline. El día de hoy me complace el compartirles mi experiencia navegando el sistema escolar y como he ayudado a mis hijos a tener buenas calificaciones. Desde que mi niña grande comenzó en el kinder, comencé a preocuparme por su educación. Yo siempre he tenido un gran interés en que ella se gradué y obtenga una carrera universitaria.

Mi preocupación empezó al no entender cómo funcionaba el sistema educativo en este país. Aunque siempre asistía todas las reuniones,  yo no entendía cómo podía ayudarla. Pensaba que los maestros la iban a ayudar por el simple hecho de ser maestros.

Aunque el sistema educativo es totalmente diferente al de nuestros países de origen, durante mi experiencia, he visto que todos los padres se enfrentan con las mismas barreras.

Cuando mis otros dos hijos comenzaron a estudiar, me di cuenta que tenía que buscar más información, que si yo no me interesaba por su educación nadie más lo iba a hacer. Que solo nosotros como padres sabemos cuáles son sus habilidades y en cuales áreas ellos necesitan apoyo. Nosotros  tenemos la responsabilidad de informarnos, participar en las reuniones y aplicar lo aprendido. Y para esto existen varias formas de comunicación: las reuniones escolares, visitas a las clases de los niños, llamadas telefónicas a los maestros y también por correo electrónico.  De verdad, aunque al principio no fue así, el visitar regularmente la escuela de mis hijos e involucrarme como voluntaria, esto me ayudó mucho. Y aunque en algunas ocasiones no todo ha sido tan positivo, yo les aseguro que tarde o temprano sus esfuerzos rendirán frutos.

La comunicación entre maestros, padres y alumnos es muy importante.  Nosotros como padres tenemos que hacer preguntas directas, claras, y específicamente enfocadas en el tema de interés o en cual sea nuestra preocupación.  Las preguntas deben ser tan frecuentes como ustedes lo deseen.  Entre más preguntemos, más aprendemos.  Yo sé que cada familia es única, como lo son cada uno de nuestros hijos. Todos tenemos diferentes formas de aprender y de implementar lo aprendido. Aunque a veces sentimos que no hacemos lo suficiente, déjenme decirles que SI lo es. Porque al ver el progreso positivo de nuestros hijos, la forma en cómo se desenvuelven y las expectativas que ellos mismos crean para su futuro,  es en ese momento que reconocemos que nuestro tiempo y esfuerzo ha valido la pena.

Aunque no es una tarea fácil, hay que tener la determinación y la convicción de que nuestros hijos como todos los estudiantes, se merecen una buena educación y que esto solo se logra con trabajo de equipo: Padre, hijos, maestros y el personal escolar.

Ustedes son los líderes de sus hogares, con grandes habilidades y además con un gran sueño. El sueño de que nuestros hijos logren una buena educación y un futuro exitoso.  Asistiendo esta conferencia es el principio.  No nomas escuchemos la información que hoy se nos presenta.  Apliquémosla de hoy en adelante y de una manera consistente.  ¡Nuestros hijos se lo merecen!

Norman B. Rice:

This Parent Forum is an amazing event and the turnout is phenomenal for the first year!

I feel so much energy and commitment this morning and know that every one of us here yearns for our kids to get a good education and find pathways to opportunity and self sufficiency.

But no one here has a stronger, more heartfelt commitment to this cause than Mary Jean Ryan, the leader of the Road Map Project.

And just as you are here to advocate for your kids, The Seattle Foundation is here to advocate for one of ours!  We were one of the first funders of The Road Map Project.  Mary Jean and her team shared offices with us in their early days.  We helped get the project off the ground so we are “proud parents” ourselves and delighted to see the incredible support from all of you, from the school districts, the community partners and the many sponsors!

The need for a Parent Forum is so obvious, it is hard to believe this is the first one! What is planned today is so important in helping you:

  • Know the tools and resources that will help you successfully navigate the school system
  • Build relationships with administrators and school leaders
  • Understand how you can help your children be the best students they can be

Parents are a child’s first teacher. Parents are the key to student success. Parents want to be involved with the schools as a valued partner. But that is not always easy. Sometimes schools are not welcoming. Sometimes bureaucracy trumps humanity. Sometimes assumptions get made about parents that are simply not true.

Sometimes parents don’t understand the school system or how to effectively help their children. We need to take down the walls that separate us. We all need to work harder to make this a stronger bond. And the responsibility extends way past the classroom and the school building. It is a community responsibility.  All institutions that serve and interact with students and families have work to do. We need to talk less and listen more to the people closest to the children:  PARENTS!

This Forum has been planned by parents, for parents. The agenda is the one that parents designed. We are trying hard to listen carefully to parents and to lift up your voices. You have high aspirations for your children and so we must band together to make those dreams come true.

We really are one community and the children of this region are our treasure. The Seattle Foundation is committed to investing in strong, authentic parent and community engagement. There is no better path to student success!

Even more powerful than the workshops are the parent conversations to be hosted by each Road Map school district at the end of the day.  It’s this kind of dialogue that can really move us forward in a shared vision of school and student success.

You know, when I was growing up, I had working parents and it was tough sometimes for all of us to be on the same page when it came to my schoolwork.  My folks ran their own restaurant – Rice’s Tap Room and Grill.  Let me tell you:  they put in some LONG hours.   My brothers and sister helped me out, for sure, but I wouldn’t have made it without some great teachers who really looked out for me.

A few teachers stand out, three dedicated amazing women who saw promise in me. There was Ms. Wilson, the Latin teacher who drilled into me the importance of speaking correctly.  Ms. Lindemann was the English teacher who inspired me to become a better writer.  And Ms. Pagano was the teacher who brought history to life, pushing me to read and see beyond my hometown of Denver to a world rich in culture and adventure.

Teachers are important but as I said earlier, parents are their children’s most important teachers! I commend all of you for coming today to invest your time in your kids and their academic success.  I have absolutely no doubt that your children will reap the benefits of this investment.

I thank all of you for coming and I certainly want to thank the many community members and local leaders here, as well.  Family and community engagement is a vital part of a truly successful school. But it rarely just happens — it must be intentionally designed just as you have done here today.

Congratulations and best wishes for a very productive day!

Thank you, financial sponsors!

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Thank you, Planning Committee!

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Where ELL Students Attend School: Of the seven school districts in the Road Map Project region, the Tukwila School District has the highest percent of ELL students.

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