Changing Suburbs Institute (CSI) hosted parents from eight Westchester school districts last Friday at Manhatanville College to collaborate on how to improve the educational opportunities available to diverse student populations.
During CSI’s 12th annual Hispanic Parent Leadership Institute, more than 200 parents attended workshops on topics currently impacting students and how to enable parents to effectively advocate for their children’s education. Workshop topics included the parent bill of rights, supporting the home language, trauma related to separation and reunion, female empowerment, mindfulness and Internet safety. Participating districts included Bedford, Peekskill, Ossining and White Plains.
With the event conducted entirely in Spanish, organizers and educators in attendance believe the conference offered Hispanic parents the chance to learn how to best navigate their way through the education system.
“Parents are very interested,” said Mount Kisco Elementary ESOL teacher Judith Aragon. “They have the same fears as every other person with children on how to help them get through this very complicated life that they have now.”
Mariela Adams, regional coordinator with Parent to Parent of New York State, which helps families reduce isolation for children, added that the event gave a voice to parents who are currently struggling with their daily responsibilities.
Her workshop, special care for caring for others, explored concepts of mindfulness and the impact those concepts can have on a parent’s daily wellbeing. The workshop also taught parents practical ways to incorporate those concepts into their family life, Adams said.
“It’s so fundamental for the parents to think about themselves and to think a little bit about their wellness, and I think the better they are themselves, in terms of mental health, the better able they’ll be to sit down and do all the parenting things,” Adams said. “This is a really special conference, so we try to be a voice for the parents and listen to them.”
Martha Lopez, the head of Advocacy and Immigration Affairs for County Executive George Latimer, was the keynote speaker during the event. Lopez said the conference is critical for immigrant families who are integrating into the community and want to learn the ins and outs of education.
“It is all about empowerment,” Lopez said. “So many times we think of immigrants integrating into the community and you don’t think about all those aspects of needing to come together to help families.”
She praised CSI for instilling parents with the information and guidance to persevere in their community and school district.
For over a decade, Manhattanville’s CSI has led the effort to provide information to Spanish-speaking immigrant parents in their own language to help them become strong advocates for their children’s education and community.
Other districts represented last Friday were the Elmsford Union Free School District, Greenburgh Central School District, Port Chester Public School District and City School District of New Rochelle.
“This conference provides our families the opportunity to learn skills they can apply when working with their child,” said Ossining Board of Education President Lisa Murray. “It empowers them to become a leader.”