From the classroom to the courtroom and back

UnidosUS Senior Education Policy Advisor Lorén Trull shares what propels her work to provide educational opportunities for all children.

By Jennifer Wennig for UnidosUS

Lorén Trull, Senior Education Policy Advisor for UnidosUS, is the embodiment of the transformative power of education. Lorén is a first-generation college student who grew up in a single-parent, low-income home. Determined to create a better future for herself, Lorén was a dedicated student and set her sights high.

Staff Profile Loren Trull

Lorén Trull

After completing her undergraduate studies (earning two bachelor’s degrees in Hispanic studies and sociology), Lorén earned a Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill and a doctoral degree in public policy from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“I’m well aware of what my statistical chances of going to college, earning a law degree, and earning a PhD were,” Lorén says. “Let’s just say the odds were against me and I don’t think that should be the case for any student.”

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This Trump budget is not what the American people want or need

The president aims to take programs away from hardworking families when they need them most while doubling down on his administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.

By Amelia Collins, Policy Analyst, UnidosUS

Today, the Trump administration sent its budget for fiscal year 2019 to Congress, outlining the next phase of the Republican agenda.

Trump budgetFirst, they attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has helped four million Latinos get health care.

Then they passed a massive trillion-dollar tax cut for large corporations and the wealthy: the top 1% get an average tax cut of $1,061 a week, 125 times larger than the weekly $8.46 going to the bottom 60% of Americans.

What’s next? Paying for the deficit-busting tax bill by slashing Medicaid, nutrition assistance, and other basic supports that help everyday Americans make ends meet.

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Breaking the colonial shackles

How an UnidosUS Líderes Con Alas fellow found a life mission in dark times

Matt Hinojosa | Lideres con Alas | UnidosUS | latino youth leaders

Matt Hinojosa Photo: Lupito’s Photography

By John Marth, Senior Content Specialist

Most people try to hide from the San Antonio sun, but Matt Hinojosa found something special in the scorching heat.

“I could feel myself getting close to this transcendental force just by being outside and working on the land,” he says. He was doing landscaping full-time and found a few hidden benefits no one told him about. “I could drink all day,” he says, “just detoxing and sweating in the sun.”

“It felt good, but at the same time, that was when I was deepest in my addiction.”

He was taking a few semesters off from college to save for tuition and a car, and to pay off fines from drug and alcohol charges.

Matt had been drinking and using drugs since he was a teenager, and it was affecting every part of his life. By the time he started landscaping, he’d dropped out of two different colleges, been arrested, and was losing hope.

“I was in a really dark place in my life. I didn’t have much to be proud of.”

Not long after, another semester in college would put him in touch with his Chicanx history and get him sober. All of these things—addiction, recovery, connection to something larger—would lead Matt to his life’s work.

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New bill would equip future teachers to better support English learners

Teacher shortages are common across the United States. However, there are several high-need areas where this shortage is most profound.

For most states, as their English Learner (ELs) population grows, it has become abundantly clear that they need more educators able to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) or at a minimum, have the skills necessary to support the nearly 4.6 million English Learners in our classrooms.

Though ELs face many barriers to success, one glaring issue is a lack of access to high-quality, well-trained teachers. Gone are the days of ELs being taught in separate classrooms where their instruction was focused on language acquisition.

Instead, ELs are being taught in general education classrooms where they can make both language and academic progress, as they should be. Most teachers will encounter an EL in their classrooms at some point in their careers and must be prepared to support them.

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Finding the power of family at home and in the classroom

Sonia Gonzalez—a participant of UnidosUS’s Escalera and Líderes Avanzando programs—credits her East LA upbringing and her family’s perseverance and compassion for guiding her path to college and beyond

At center: Sonia Gonzalez and; UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía pose with guests at our 2017 Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. <em>Photo: Sonia Gonzalez</em>

Sonia Gonzalez Photo: Sonia Gonzalez

By Jennifer Wennig for UnidosUS

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor has said, “Remember that no one succeeds alone. Never walk alone in your future paths.” This is a sentiment that captures the experiences of another strong Latina named Sonia.

Growing up in East LA, Sonia Gonzalez was determined to pursue higher education as early as in elementary school. Planning to go to college was not an “option” but a “requirement” in Sonia’s mind.

It was an ambition rooted in the lessons given by her family, who have provided lifelong examples of perseverance and service.

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Advocates discuss opportunities and challenges in career and technical education

Career and technical education programs in high schools today offer training in careers ranging from STEM fields to marketing, sales, and service. Their  continued improvement and expansion is important to the Latino community.

Career and Technical Education

On January 10, UnidosUS and the National Urban League brought together researchers, policymakers, advocates, and practitioners whose common goal is to ensure that state education plans equally prepare all students with 21st-century skills.

One of those areas of focus is in career and technical education, or CTE.

But we’re not talking about the vocational education of years past that channeled certain populations of students into skilled trades and prevented them from working toward academic degrees. CTE today provides students with academic and technical skills, along with training for a range of industry certifications, and postsecondary certificates and degrees. CTE offers 16 career clusters ranging from STEM fields to marketing, sales, and service.

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La participación escolar de los padres: desafíos y soluciones

Los padres que participan en la educación de sus hijos juegan un papel clave en su éxito escolar. Aquellos padres que se mantienen involucrados poseen el saber y la habilidad para tomar decisiones relacionadas a la educación de sus hijos. Los padres así fomentan conexiones con los maestros, los empleados y otros padres. Al estar involucrados, ellos también pueden asistir con los eventos escolares, y formar parte de grupos, como la Asociación de padres y maestros (PTA por sus siglas en inglés),  que se encargan de tomar decisiones escolares locales y del distrito. De esta manera los padres aumentan su conocimiento del currículo académico, los exámenes que sus hijos deben tomar, y aprenden lo que deben hacer si sus hijos tienen dificultades académicas y a quien acudir para ayuda.

Es evidente que hay muchos beneficios si padres participan en las escuelas. Sin embargo, muchos padres enfrentan barreras a la participación escolar.

Desafíos para involucrarse

Primero, hay padres que no conocen el sistema escolar estadounidense. Tal vez el sistema escolar de su infancia fue muy diferente o su experiencia con el sistema escolar público fue limitado. Cualquiera la razón, el desconocimiento de sistemas escolares es un problema muy común para muchos padres.

Además, las barreras lingüísticas impiden la comunicación entre los padres, maestros y grupos como el PTA. Sin el apoyo necesario, como traductores, muchos padres son excluidos de estas conversaciones importantes.

Entre el trabajo (o los trabajos), las tareas del hogar y el cuidado de niños –muchos padres carecen de tiempo libre. Por eso, los eventos escolares y sesiones familiares se vuelven prioridad secundaria.

Finalmente, algunos padres tienen miedo de ir a la escuela. Testimonios en las noticias sobre arrestos, encarcelamientos y otras altercaciones con la policía cerca de las escuelas, han causado mucho temor en la comunidad. Desafortunadamente, muchos padres Latinos y padres inmigrantes enfrentan estos obstáculos día a día.. Lo bueno es que hay soluciones.

Enfrentando las barreras

Padres Comprometidos, un programa de UnidosUS, ofrece un currículo bilingüe y talleres que buscan eliminar las barreras que impiden la participación escolar de los padres. Este plan de estudio está compuesto de dos series diseñado para ayudar a los padres a navegar el sistema escolar, comprender los datos y notas de calificaciones, aprender de los estándares académicos y examines estatales, y elevar un asunto al nivel apropiado en la jerarquía académica.

La organización UnidosUS da talleres que enseñan el plan de estudio a los padres para que ellos puedan implementarlo en sus escuelas u organizaciones. Ya que algunos de los padres trabajan para distritos escolares, mientras otros son voluntarios, las maneras de implementar el plan varían. ¿Qué es lo que logra este programa  Eliminar las barreras que enfrentan muchos padres Latinos, dar poder para que ellos puedan tomar decisiones importantes con respeto a sus hijos y elevar las voces diversas, que históricamente han sido silenciadas, en las escuelas y en las organizaciones de padres.

El programa Padres Comprometidos comenzó en 2009 y ha crecido a 54 escuelas y organizaciones de 24 estados por todo el país.

Los padres en acción

A principios de diciembre, más de 25 padres de ocho estados y 11 organizaciones se reunieron para un evento de educación y abogacía latina en Washington, DC. Ellos participaron en un taller donde se enseñó nuestro Plan de Estudio para Padres Defensores, la segunda serie del  Currículo de Padres Comprometidos.

Este plan enseña a los padres como identificar y elevar un asunto al nivel apropiado en la jerarquía escolar, como pensar en las soluciones posibles, y finalmente, como colaborar con el liderazgo de la escuela para implementar estas soluciones.

El taller ayudó a los padres a sentirse más preparados con el plan de estudio. Además, el taller creó un ambiente para colaborar y discutir los desafíos comunes en la participación de los padres en las escuelas. Ellos compartieron estrategias y soluciones.

“Implementen una rifa cada sesión para establecer un ambiente divertido y atraer a padres nuevos,” compartió una madre. “Hagan llamadas bilingües y produzcan folletos cuando hay reuniones para los padres,” dijo otra madre.

Además, una madre compartió una estrategia muy simple para establecer relaciones más fuertes con los maestros en la escuela. “La bienvenida es lo más importante. Una sonrisa grande y una bienvenida cálida vale mucho.” Un consejo simple que deben hacer todos los padres y el liderazgo escolar diariamente.

Parent Engagement: The Challenges and Solutions

A parent’s involvement in their child’s education is key to the child’s success in school. An engaged parent has valuable knowledge that’s useful when making important decisions about their child’s school life. Parents engage by developing relationships with teachers, school staff, and other parents; attending and volunteering at school events; and participating in parent circles that make school- and district-wide decisions. 

As a result, these parents are aware of what their child is learning, which tests their child will take and why, what to do if their child is struggling, and who to go to if there’s a problem. There are multiple ways for parents to get involved and there are endless benefits. However, many parents face barriers to becoming engaged in their children’s schools.

Challenges to becoming engaged

Not all parents are familiar with the U.S. public school system. Whether the education system they grew up with is different from this one, or they have limited experience with public education in general, unfamiliarity with the system is a common reality.

Language barriers can also prevent communication between parents, teachers, and parent circles. Without proper support like translation or interpretation services, some parents are excluded from important groups and conversations.

Extra time outside of work and caring for additional children can be very limited. Many parents work multiple jobs and have more than one child to care for. This causes parent meetings and school functions to become a second priority.

Some parents are even afraid to come to school. Stories of arrests and other altercations with police officers while dropping their child off invoke fear among parents.

Unfortunately, many Latino and immigrant parents identify with these challenges. Fortunately, there are solutions to overcome these challenges.

Removing barriers

UnidosUS’s Padres Comprometidos program is a bilingual curriculum and training that breaks down some of the barriers Latino and immigrant parents face. The two-series curriculum helps parents navigate the education system, understand school data and report cards, learn more about state standards and assessments, and elevate a given issue to the appropriate level in a school.

UnidosUS delivers the curriculum to parent leaders, some of whom are employed by school districts. Others volunteer in a train-the-trainer format. Parent leaders learn how to teach the curriculum and implement it at their schools or at nearby nonprofits. The result? Barriers are taken down, Latino and immigrant parents feel empowered to make changes in their child’s education, and diverse voices that usually go unheard are brought to schools and influential parent groups.

Padres Comprometidos started in 2009 and has grown to 54 schools and nonprofits in 24 states across the country.

Parents in action

In early December, over 25 Padres Comprometidos parent leaders from eight states and 11 organizations convened for the Latino Education Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC. They received training in the second series of the curriculum: the Parent Advocacy Curriculum (PAC).

PAC teaches parents how to identify and elevate a specific issue to the appropriate level in a school, come up with possible solutions, and, ultimately, collaborate with school leadership to implement the solutions.

The Summit provided an opportunity for parent leaders to become comfortable with the advocacy curriculum while discussing how to tackle the challenges in parent engagement. One parent leader talked about the raffles they host at each parent meeting, which keeps engagement fun and attracts new parents.

Another leader mentioned the bilingual phone calls and flyers that go out whenever a parent meeting is approaching. One parent said, “The welcome is the most important part. A big smile and a warm welcome to a parent can really do a lot.” Simple yet invaluable advice that parent and school leaders should be doing every day.