Padres Comprometidos connects Salt Lake City’s Latino parents to their child’s education

Empty in Español

A group of 12 parents stood inside the Glendale-Mountain View Community Learning Center’s learning lab in Salt Lake City Friday morning waiting to receive their diplomas. They were the latest cohort to graduate from the Padres Comprometidos program.

The eight-week course is designed to help parents engage with their children’s education and help them understand the American school system. It covers topics from communicating with teens to paving a road to academic success and understanding school funding.

Judith Ixcoteyac has been living in the United States for 11 years. She is from Guatemala and has a first-grade daughter at Mountainview Elementary.

Ixcoteyac was in her car at the school drop-off when she learned about the program through Elizabeth Montoya, the family involvement coordinator. At the time, she was dealing with a family tragedy in her home country but had been searching for ways to be more involved in her daughter’s schooling.

“[Elizabeth] would tell me, ‘Come, come to the meetings of Padres Comprometidos!’ And I would tell her ‘Yes, I’ll get there, I’ll get there,’” she said. “But the depression was kind of knocking me down and then I decided to come to the first meeting. I got involved.”

She had a hard time navigating the school system initially because of her limited English.

“I found it very difficult because I didn’t have much understanding of the system,” she said. “And in my country Guatemala, over there, we women are very discriminated against. Education is not seen for us women. And then, when I came here, I thought, `How can I integrate?’”

The program is in its sixth year. Montoya, who works at both Mountainview Elementary and Glendale Middle School, said it’s been very successful.

Montoya saw the need for this parent program when she was talking to a mom in the community about grades.

“A mom came and said to me, ‘My son has many F’s and my son says that stands for fabulous,'” Montoya said. “So sometimes we have parents there who believe everything that children say – that’s true. So we teach them to read report cards and how to talk to school counselors. And about the role of the board of education.”

She said they mainly work with Latino parents but are hoping to expand the program to include other refugee communities too.

Parents who go through the program stay involved in their children’s education one way or another. They help out by attending school programs or guiding their kids through school.

“A lot of our Latino children don’t graduate from college. So by educating parents, we educate our children,” Montoya said. “If parents are educated and know the system and how to navigate it, then we can have success. Because they are aware. That even if they could not graduate, then their son can graduate.”

She said they see language and culture as assets — rather than obstacles — to build these skills.

Ixcoteyac enjoyed the program because it taught her simple things like how to greet the kids at school in English and how to give advice to her daughter.

“I liked it a lot because I was learning things that because I was a new mother I didn’t know,” she said. “And there they were teaching me how to educate my girl and at the same time, how to give good advice to her and help other children.”

Ixcoteyac said she was proud of herself for graduating and for being a part of the school community.

The program is free for parents. After the course ends, graduates receive a free Chromebook. The next session is expected at the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

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