ELPASO: Engaged Latino Parents Advancing Student Outcomes

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes
Photo from ELPASO Facebook

Was your student ready for Kindergarten? Did he/she know the alphabet, how to count or the colors of the rainbow?

Many Latino students enter Kindergarten without this basic knowledge.

According the Boulder County TRENDS Report, for many years there has been a striking difference in school achievement between Latino and Anglo students. Of all the counties in Colorado, Boulder County has the largest gap.

After identifying this problem, Engaged Latino Parents Advancing Student Outcomes (ELPASO) was created in June 2017.

ELPASO strives to help Latino parents understand the importance of early childhood education while encouraging them become active leaders in their community.

They thought that “if ELPASO builds the Latino parent voice by connecting parents to resources and providing natural leaders with the skills, knowledge, and power of advocacy they need, then the leaders will build a movement helping other parents ensure all Latino children enter kindergarten at grade-level, closing the achievement gap,” according to the ELPASO website.

This movement starts off with an ELPASO representative knocking on the doors. The representative talks with families to assess their needs in the community especially in regards to their students.

These sessions are lovingly referred to as cafecitos. They usually happen inside a person’s home and are done over several visits. During these visits the host will generally invite their friends and neighbors and the message spreads.

After building a relationship with these families, the representative encourages them to come together and talk about the issues their students face in school.

While the primary objective is to teach parents what students need to know when entering Kindergarten, ELPASO works to help parents have a voice in their children’s schools.

ELPASO recognizes that parents are the best source to enact change from community leaders. Currently, ELPASO has reached more than 1,900 families and growing.

ELPASO serves all of Boulder County and is currently making a movement to integrate its services in Longmont. They have been working closely with St. Vrain Valley School District to learn about the best ways to serve Longmont’s Latino population. ELPASO will be hiring a Longmont representative in the summer of 2019.

ELPASO offers several services including Exito and Vos.

ELPASO Exito (Photo from ELPASO Facebook)

Exito works with parents who have children from 0-5 by providing the necessary tools for children to be ready for kindergarten.

“When you arrive from your far away country, you tend to be submerged with all the things that are here. And all of sudden you forget that you too have a richness in songs and games and the stories and books and everything else from your own culture, from your own language. Many, many, many of the Latino community forget to bring that to their little kiddos and our young, young, young students arrive without being familiar with their letters, their numbers, the colors, shapes, or able to be attentive to those around them, or have the vocabulary to express themselves,” says ELPASO Executive Director Tere Garcia.

Vos is a program that encourages parents to be leaders in their community. This program is designed to help parents follow their children through the school system and to be a voice for their children’s needs within.

According to Tere Garcia, executive director of ELPASO, there are many stories of Latino students suffering simply due to a lack of communication between schools and parents.

One story she regaled was of Latino students coming home hungry because they did not eat lunch at school. Lunches were provided but the students were not eating. When the ELPASO parent group got involved they learned that these Latino students were not eating because the food was culturally different from what they eat at home.

With a little work with the school district, the menus were easily changed that now includes some cultural options. Since the school district was unaware of how to cook some of these dishes, parents supplied easy and cost-effective recipes.

ELPASO Tere Garcia teaching parents (Photo from ELPASO Facebook)

One way that parents can learn more about how to become community leaders and to advocate for their students is by attending workshops and conferences hosted by ELPASO.

On April 26, ELPASO will host a mini-conference at the First Lutheran Church, located at 803 3rd Ave., Longmont. The conference will run from 5-8 p.m. The topics to be discussed include, vaping, summer camps and activities and immigration. Dinner and childcare are provided.

The topics for this conference were suggested by ELPASO parents. Each session will be led by a leader in the field with a 20 minute talk. Following the talk, parents will be allowed to use the remainder of the hour to ask questions.

The Longmont Observer will be in attendance to live-stream this event. Tune into our Facebook page to see the discussion.

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