“My mom is a Parent Mentor and I like that we go to school together. I like that other students know my mom. All of my classmates know my mom because they always see her in the school helping out.”
Daniela Hernández is a student at Eli Whitney Elementary School, one of the four schools that will host the Parent Mentor Program this school year. This program began at Enlace five years ago. It is designed to support both students and parents, and to create cohesion between school staff and parents.
“As part of the program, parents work and collaborate with teachers in their classrooms for two hours a day Mondays through Thursdays,” explained Azucena Sánchez, Parent Mentor Program Coordinator at Enlace.
Thanks to the collaborative work of state legislators, Enlace Parent Mentors and other parents around the state, the amount of state funding for the program has increased this year. This has allowed it to be expanded from two to four schools in Little Village. Initially, the program began at Eli Whitney Elementary School and Cyrus H. McCormick Elementary School. This school year, Little Village Academy and G.D. Kanoon Magnet Elementary School will be added. “It’s important to recognize that one of the leaders that was most supportive of the effort to increase funding was State Representative Lisa Hernández,” said Astrid Suarez, the Director of Education at Enlace.
At the end of last year, the program included 20 Parent Mentors in the two schools working with around 467 students from Pre-K to 2nd grade. “The program started in Illinois with eight parents and 245 students. Today, there are about 600 Parent Mentors, 20,000 students and 17 organizations involved across the state.” Azucena Sánchez explained.
Participating parents receive training in reading, math and leadership. Every Friday for two hours, they engage in Training on Instructional Practices for Tutors, Organizers, and Parents, or TIP TOP. “Parent Mentors play a very important pedagogical role in Pre-K to 2nd grade, where students are building important foundations for their academic future,” explained Astrid Suarez. Parents also gain tools that help them provide support at home for their children, even those who are in higher grades.
A coordinator supports the program at each school. Currently, the coordinator at G.D. Kanoon Magnet Elementary School, one of the new schools that will host the program, is overseeing recruitment of parents and teachers. Little Village Academy is in the process of hiring a coordinator in order to start recruitment. “The goal is for each school to have a minimum of eight Parent Mentors, but there is no maximum limit. Everything depends on the number of teachers that are interested in participating and the available funds,” explained Astrid Suarez and Azucena Sánchez.
Daniela told us about her experience with Parent Mentors. “There was a mom in my classroom in Kindergarten and in 2nd grade. She helped us with reading and writing words. She asked us questions to see if we understood. I liked it. She was really good with us. She was there Mondays through Thursdays.”
The Parent Mentor Program is focused on mobilizing parents in order to create collaborative, collective processes in Little Village. If you are interested in participating or in getting more information, please contact Azucena Sánchez at firstname.lastname@example.org.