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Latino Parents Engage with Middle Schools in Southeast Region Communities

Partnering for School Success (PSS) is a University of Minnesota Extension project in that focuses on two of the major factors related to academic achievement for Latino families: family and school environments. This CYFAR (Children, Youth & Families at Risk) project is in year four of a five-year federal grant, and takes place at Triton Elementary School in Dodge Center and Faribault Middle School, both of which are in southeast Minnesota.

Components of the multi-faceted project include:

  1. Family education, including parent education and youth after-school sessions related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects.
  2. Family school partnership, in which parents and school staff work together to develop a plan for improved partnerships and communication.
  3. School navigators, who serve as liaisons between families and schools.
The project also includes two types of classes: “Education, Our Heritage – Connecting Parents and Schools (Educación, nuestra mejor herencia)” and “Open Doors with Higher Education,” a 14-hour FD program that helps Latino students and their parents learn the value of continuing education beyond high school and how to prepare for and finance higher education.

“Education our Heritage” classes help parents understand their role in their children’s education, inform them how schools work in their communities, and discuss their role as a partner in their children’s success in school. The seven-week series of classes has been offered to four groups of parents in each community (Dodge Center and Faribault) over the past four years. Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Extension educator, family resiliency, facilitates the classes in Spanish with assistance from school navigators at each site: Zulema Nieves, cultural liaison for Faribault Public Schools, and Gabriela Burk, who is also a financial literacy program associate with Family Development.

After the classes, parents have reported increased connection and communication with school staff, more communication with their children about school, greater confidence in how to support their children’s education, and increased understanding of the importance of graduating from high school and continuing education after high school. Booster sessions with parents on technology, computer skills, and communication augmented the series of parent education classes.

Parents and middle school youth at both schools were offered classes in winter and spring 2015 using the "Open Doors with Higher Education" curriculum to enhance parents’ knowledge, skills, and practices for best preparing their children to attend post-secondary education. A pre/post survey was developed to measure key objectives of the eight weekly sessions of the Open Doors classes. Extension Educators Antonio Alba Meraz and Silvia Alvarez de Davila facilitated the classes in Spanish. Parents reported a significant increase in knowledge about the following topics:
  • What classes can help their child achieve their goals after high school.
  • Tests required for college.
  • Different ways to pay for college (including financial aid).
  • How to search for information on how to select and pay for college.
  • How to talk to their child about paying for higher education and managing money.
  • Community resources to help Latino students plan for higher education. 
Field trips also have offered an experiential component to this CYFAR project.

Photos from the spring 2015 field trip. Read more: PSS Participants Tour U of M.

Field trips were held in winter and spring 2015, for parents and youth to institutions of higher education:
  • Southeast Technical College — Riverland (60 parents and youth from Triton and Faribault schools participated).
  • University of Minnesota — Mankato (50 Faribault parents and youth participated).
  • University of Minnesota — Twin Cities (60 parents and youth from Triton and Faribault schools participated).
For more information about PSS, or the Triton-Faribault CYFAR project, send me an email at

Kathleen Olson
Program Director — Partnering for School Success

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