Parent Centers support parents to help children learn at home, school

Parent Centers support parents to help children learn at home, school

“Hola y bienvenidos, padres…¿Comó está usted?”

A cheery welcome from Rosanna Carlson, parent instructional support coordinator (PISC) at Summerour Middle, helps to set the tone as her students enter the classroom. Once the session begins, the students attentively watch Dana Yeckley, the school’s language arts coach, as she creates a Reading Wheel to help with reading comprehension. However, these aren't middle-schoolers, nor are they listening to Ms. Yeckley. Using headsets, these parents-turned-students are listening to an interpreter for this “Lunch and Learn,” sponsored by the Summerour Parent Center.

PISC Rosanna Carlson welcomes parents to the
Center for a "Lunch and Learn" session.

“Lunch and Learn programs are good for our teachers, students, and parents," says Ms. Carlson. "Everyone likes the smaller groups and evening programs because they are relationship-based. Most of our parent participants are learning English or are native Spanish speakers. We can create a more comfortable atmosphere and our parents feel more confident.”

During this Lunch and Learn on reading, a Summerour 6th grader shyly stands at the doorway to the center, and catches the eye of her father, then her mother. After a few hurried hugs are exchanged, she rushes back to the cafeteria to join her friends.

“That’s another reason our parents like to participate in our activities,” Ms. Carlson says. “They get to see their children, and the children are really proud to see their parents at the school.”

A Summerour Middle parent listens intently during the
"Lunch and Learn" session held earlier this fall.
Summerour's Center, like the other 41 centers in Gwinnett's Title I schools, serves as the gathering place for parents to access information and learning tools that will help their students achieve and will encourage parents to be involved in every step of their child's academic journey. Bilingual Title III parent outreach liaisons also offer support to non-English speaking families through translations, interpretive services, home visits, and more.

“We are very fortunate in Gwinnett County to have Parent Centers in our Title I schools,” says Eula Curtis, Benefield Elementary's PISC. “They serve as a hub where parents can come and feel comfortable about talking with us and getting materials to take home. We’re a link between parents and the school, and I’m proud to be part of that— my colleagues are, too.”

Lisa Carr-Dixon, parent involvement program specialist for GCPS, notes the importance of the Parent Centers and outreach efforts. "The PISCs are very motivated and passionate," she says. "They've worked to establish good relationships with parent groups and provide many different outlets for involvement."

Around the county, Centers offer a host of activities to support family involvement in education, including English and computer classes, parent academies to develop parent leaders in the school, testing workshops, family fun nights with a learning focus, "dad's clubs," community-building events, and college fairs and orientation nights.

“We do a lot of mailings here, and our parents help with those mailings,” says June Harris, parent instructional support coordinator at Meadowcreek High. “Our parents usually like to take information and read about the issues that affect their students. We offer them a place in the Center where they can sit and read, ask questions, and check out resources, like the ‘daily warm-ups’ and flipper boards to help strengthen their students’ academic skills.”

Gamaliel Gomez, a Parent Center volunteer, has seen Meadowcreek parents benefit from the presence of an onsite translator and translated materials.

“Our parents come from different countries—Puerto Rico, South America, Asia, and others,” Mr. Gomez says. “They can come here and communicate with someone in their own language. We’ve had a Vietnamese translator walk around with parents and answer questions. We see a big difference when they attend meetings and there is more participation. It used to be a challenge to get parents to come out. Now, we are seeing much more participation and we’re very excited to have them.”

Gamaliel Gomez, center, assists a Meadowcreek parent, left, and her student at the school's Parent Center.

Click here for more on Special and Federal Programs, including the Title I program and a list of GCPS Parent Centers.