Lucia Requenes is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts in school turnaround.
It is an honor to be recognized as a White House Champion of Change. My journey began in the summer of 2010 when I received a letter informing me of the restructuring of Emerson Elementary School as a result of low performance in student achievement. As an involved parent, this came as a shock. Although I had been participating in the school PTA, I was surprisingly uninformed. I was left asking myself, “What can I do?”
After a lot of thought, I took the opportunity to apply for a Community & Family Specialist position at Emerson Elementary. By that time, I think the principal knew that if I was not hired, I was going to be at the school anyway. After being offered the position, I began to look for parent involvement information and supports for our school. One of my first steps was to set up a meeting with the Kansas Parent Information Resource Center (KPIRC) to discuss our approach to involving families. In order to prepare teachers to engage families, KPIRC and I collaborated to provide professional development to all faculty members at Emerson on engaging families in their children’s education. During this training, teachers identified strategies and created a “classroom plan of action” that they would use during the current school year to engage families in alignment with the PTA National Family School Partnership Standards.
After collaborating with others, I decided to foster the most important component of the process – the school/home connection. I knew that if we were ever going to improve at Emerson, we would need to reach out to parents in a genuine and respectful manner. This meant doing over 130 porch visits with our families to introduce myself, welcome families, and let them know we are partners in their children’s education. This year our porch visits expanded to include all of Emerson’s staff.
Currently, our Parent/Community Outreach Program has grown to include a reading component in which families directly participate in helping their children in school. Additionally, we are able to facilitate the opportunity for families to enroll in English classes. Another program in place is the 5th Grade Leadership Group in collaboration with the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department, which focuses on social issues and provides a positive experience that explores leadership and careers.
We all know that learning starts at home, and by engaging families in their children’s learning, we can influence a child’s achievement. I’m proud to be a small part, in building the community that can surround our children with the love and encouragement needed to lead them down the road to success and happiness.
Lucia Requenes is a community and family specialist for Emerson Elementary.