Finding ways to help parents become more involved in their childrens’ education and schools has been an enduring goal for Merced County educators.
The Merced County Office of Education, Merced Union High School District and other supporting organizations tackled that issue head on when they held their fifth annual Parent Institute conference Saturday at Golden Valley High School.
“We’re trying to inspire parents and provide them with the tools they need to help their children succeed,” said Rosa Barragan, the conference chair and a program manager for the MCOE’s Early Education Department.
Those tools on Saturday included motivational speeches by author Ramon Resa and educator Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, along with workshops on a range of issues, such as bullying, suicide prevention, financial education and updates on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
About 72 percent of students in Merced County are Hispanic, according to data compiled by MCOE and published in its annual report this week.
Traditional Hispanic culture, particularly in Mexico, included parents sending their children to school and not questioning or becoming more involved in the education process, MCOE Superintendent Steve Tietjen said.
But in American schools, Tietjen said, parents are expected to engage, participate in and find out how they can better support their child.
“That’s a critical change for parents initially educated outside the country,” and for those who grew up in the United States but were parented according to ethnic norms, Tietjen said.
The conference’s workshops, including those that taught parents how to better communicate with children, build healthier relationships and reduce stress, were presented in English, Spanish and Hmong.
Also, the Merced high school’s gym turned into a hub of vendors and exhibits giving parents information they need to be more involved in their children’s or grandchildren’s lives.
“It’s really designed for two things,” Tietjen said, “to inspire parents to take an active role with their children in schools, and reinforce they are their child’s first and best advocate, and that with parental support, really, our children have no limits.”