By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations and Marketing Manager
Idania Fuentes sits inside the Casa View Elementary School cafeteria. Her three children hover around mom fueled by the ideal balance of poise and precociousness.
There’s 10-year-old Erick, who aims to be an engineer when he grows up. Then we have 8-year-old Eduardo, who proudly announces he’ll be a soccer star. Finally, 6-year-old Marycarmen exclaims her plans to be a teacher. Erick, Eduardo and Marycarmen participated in Big Thought’s Thriving Minds After-School program during the 2014-2015 year.
But this story isn’t about the kids. This time the focus is on the parents. Fuentes and her husband Isidro Campuzano are two-time graduates of The Concilio program. Established in 1981, The Concilio is a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to bridging the gap between parents and the educational system. The Concilio does focus on the growing Hispanic population, but classes are available for parents of all backgrounds.
What are mom and pop studying? Education and health are top of mind. Parents learn valuable lessons on preventing childhood obesity, which is prevalent in Hispanic families, by motivating their kids to eat healthy, balanced meals and exercise regularly. The education classes help parents navigate the rigors of homework, high school and college readiness, and the sometimes complicated process of choosing the right courses for their children.
A decade ago The Concilio partnered with Big Thought to provide parental classes at the Thriving Minds campuses, including Marsh Preparatory Academy, Medrano Middle School (whose April 14 Concilio ceremonies featured 46 parent graduates), Anson Jones Elementary School, Lorenzo De Zavala Elementary School, G.W. Carver Learning Center, Harold Wendell Lang, Sr. Middle School, Jerry R. Junkins Elementary School, and Casa View Elementary School.
Fuentes and Campuzano graduated from the 2014-2015 program titled Parents Advocating for Student Excellence (PASE), which was conceived by The Concilio, and the 2015-2016 companion Padres Comprometidos (PC) program, created by the National Council of La Raza. PASE specifically focuses on giving parents of all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds the tools they need to swim through the school system, tackle academic challenges, foster a home learning environment, and visualize higher education. PC is all about getting parents to play a leading role in preparing their children for college. The graduation ceremony, where parents walk the stage and receive a certificate, was held at Casa View.
“I now understand better the classes they need, the classes they want to learn toward a career,” said Fuentes. “I was so lost with the school system in general and after the program I really understand and know how important it is for them to have good grades, how important it is to complete homework. They feel more included in the process, in the educational process, in their careers. It’s really opened my mind and put my thoughts in order.”
The Concilio stretched into nine weeks with 90 minutes of classes each week at Casa View. While mom and dad are in class, the kiddos are supervised as they complete their homework.
The goal of The Concilio program is simple yet paramount – keep the parents actively engaged in their children’s schooling to provide a positive impact in the classroom and at home. According to the National PTA, as reported by Edutopia in 2000, “when parents are involved, students achieve more…they exhibit more positive attitudes and behavior…regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnic/racial background, or the parents’ education level.”
Oscar Aponte, Principal at Casa View Elementary School, is proud of his campus’ five-year involvement with The Concilio. “We are always working on getting more parent involvement; that is key,” he said. “The Concilio has a very good rapport with families. They give them a lot of tools to be able to support their kids at home. We cannot do it alone. We are doing a good job of teaching the kids in school, but we need the parents to engage their kids at home. There is where we really see the success.”
For Fuentes, The Concilio has made a huge difference not only in her own knowledge and engagement with her kids’ schooling, but it has also improved her husband’s connection with his children’s scholastic journey.
“At first he wanted only me to be involved, but little by little he has been more present and involved,” said Fuentes. “He now knows where he needs to be. Even with his work schedule he knows he needs to be interested and knowledgeable. He now knows it’s not just the mother’s role. He knows everything they are doing at school.”
Clearly the bonding has been significant. Fuentes quickly mentions The Concilio’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Families program as a saving grace. Turns out she had all the ingredients for healthy eating, but needed a viable recipe.
“I have always wanted my kids to eat vegetables, but it was sometimes hard to get them to eat vegetables,” she said. “After The Concilio program, they wanted to go out and walk and exercise. Then they wanted to eat vegetables and salads. The program helped me reach the goal I wanted for them. The program has helped me convince them to eat healthier.”
That means Erick, Eduardo and Marycarmen will excel in school, effectively turning their poise and precociousness into fruitful academic careers.
Big Thought’s Thriving Minds appreciates the generous supports of ACE, City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, The David M. Crowley Foundation, Dallas ISD, Lockheed Martin, Roy & Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust, Target, Texas Instruments Foundation, The Pollock Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, Sid W. Richardson Foundation, United Way, Rees-Jones Foundation, and The Hillcrest Foundation.