Many of the moms in my community feel like there is not much they can contribute in this foreign land that they now call home. As undocumented immigrants, they are ineligible to get a driver’s license or a job. As Spanish speakers with limited English and in many cases only an elementary level of education, they don’t believe they can even be of any help as a volunteer at their children’s schools. Our church has tried to shatter those beliefs and empower those moms to be leaders and mentors. Through a Parent Mentor program we call “Parents United in Action/Padres Unidos en Acción,” we offer training and a small stipend to moms who in exchange volunteer for 10 hours/week at their children’s schools as teacher assistants. Teachers and principals claim the program is a win/win/win for teachers, students, and the moms involved. Some of the benefits they see include:
- Parents become a part of the culture of the school–which unfortunately is often not the case at our schools.
- Children see parents contributing and serving as additional role models in the school.
- Teachers have a part-time assistant at a relatively low cost to help provide more individual attention to students struggling in reading or math.
- Parents who entered the program reluctantly, feeling like they had nothing of value to contribute to a school, grow in self-confidence and become active contributors at the school on many levels beyond their work in the classroom.
- Parents see this as a job and take it more seriously than volunteers, so are much more reliable and committed.
- These parents often become the foundation of a PTO that struggles to get people involved.
Kirsten Strand is the Founder and Director of Community 4:12, a community development focused non-profit of Community Christian Church. She and her family relocated into the under-resourced community of East Aurora, IL five years ago. Their work focuses on education and housing issues, and they are passionate about uniting people across cultural, language, and economic divides to address root causes of poverty. Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated. We’re always looking for new guest bloggers; please check out our Guest Blog Submission Guidelines if you’re interested.