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Esther Villagomez's three kids attend Blix Elementary School and First Creek Middle School. Before last year, she did not know how to get involved in their education – even though she wanted to.
Villagomez's first language is Spanish. She worried that her shaky English skills would hold her back.
Things have taken a turn for the better, she said, since she attended the Family & Community Learning Academy (FCLA), an annual one-day event co-sponsored by the Tacoma Public School's Community Partnership Office and Hilltop's Peace Community Center.
"I saw how parents can communicate with teachers," Villagomez said. "You can go and involve yourself in the schools and be a volunteer. You can go to the teachers and ask them, 'How is my child doing? Do they need any help?' "
Villagomez started volunteering at her children's school after attending FCLA, which offered practical workshops on how to talk to parents and teachers, request translation services and help with homework. She chaperoned field trips, joined the PTA and helped teachers with art projects.
Tacoma Public Schools values parents, guardians and community members who volunteer at neighborhood schools, and made it a priority goal to increase the number of registered volunteers. Parents can ask staff at their child's school about translation services or and learn about ways to get involved.
Decades of research shows students have higher grades, graduation rates and increased motivation when parents are involved in their child's education.
"It's really important to have parents understand how they can support their children's education," said Amanda Scott-Thomas, director of Tacoma Public School's Community Partnership Office. "We want our students to be college-ready or prepared for a career."
Villagomez's daughter Angelica, a middle school student at First Creek, said she's seen a big difference in her mom ever since she attended FCLA and became more involved.
"She usually didn't go to school. It was really odd the times you saw her at my school," Angelica said. "But now I see her there more and helping out and more involved. All the teachers at school know her. It makes me feel really proud that everyone says good things about my mom."
Fill out the Community Partnership Office's
volunteer form and contact the school where you want to volunteer, or call the Community Partnership Office at 253-571-7980.
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