District 47 program encourages Latino parents to become leaders in school community

CRYSTAL LAKE – School District 47 parent Candido Rodriguez wanted to get more involved in his son’s education.

Then he heard about District 47’s Bilingual Parent Leadership Academy, a program designed to encourage Latino families to become leaders in the school community and become more involved in the student learning process.

“One of the things that motivated me to join is that my daughter knows how to speak and write both languages perfectly, and I believe that’s been part of her success,” Rodriguez said. “I want my son [who goes to Hannah Beardsley] to eventually go to college like she did.”

On Monday, Rodriguez attended a leadership meeting at Canterbury Elementary School in Crystal Lake, where District 47 administrators talked to parents about family engagement.

“It’s very important for my children to learn my language, because I don’t have a ton of time to teach my kids at home the Spanish language,” said District 47 parent Zoila Acosta, who also joined the academy.

“I want to learn more tools on how I can support my son and get him prepared for college,” Acosta added. “If they learn to be bilingual when they’re young, they’ll have the advantage growing up.”

The academy consists of 12 native Spanish-speaking parents from the district who were selected by dual-language teachers and the district’s Bilingual Parent Advisory Council. To remain in the program, which is a one-year commitment, the parents are required to attend monthly leadership seminars, a PTO meeting, a school board meeting and dual-language family nights.

“By empowering our Latino families to become leaders in the school community, we are deepening the home-school connection and increasing opportunities for involvement in our schools,” superintendent Dr. Kathy Hinz said.

Three years ago, through Title I funding, District 47 hired two parent liaisons – Jacki Rubio and Allie Kreuz – who were tasked with promoting the engagement of Latino families in the schools. As a result, Rubio and Kreuz helped launch the academy last fall.

“I’ve very proud of these parents involvement and commitment to learning more about their children’s education,” Rubio said. “I am inspired by them every single day I work with them.”

A recognition dinner will be held in May for those who have completed the Bilingual Leadership Academy. Upon completion, graduates will be able to help guide the next class of leadership trainees during the next school year.

“We shouldn’t just get involved, but encourage others to get involved as well,” Rodriguez said. “You learn more about different cultures when you learn a different language.”

District 47’s dual-language program is held at three elementary schools – Canterbury, Coventry and North – and at Hannah Beardsley Middle School, but it is open to all District 47 families. The dual-language program serves about 1,000 students.

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