Great article by Susan Frey for EdSource about School Smarts, a program of the California Parent Teacher Association that help elementary school parents become more effective advocates for their children and their schools. Our Performing Arts Program provided funding for the pilot project in order to help build support for arts education across the state.

On a recent Thursday evening at Sunshine Gardens, about two dozen families gathered for dinner before the parents participated in the second weekly School Smarts training session. The sessions last from about 6:30 until 8 p.m. Child care is provided for the children in the cafeteria, while their parents attend the session in a nearby classroom.

Parents who have graduated from the program came to dish out the enchiladas, rice and beans and help the new parents – many new to the country as well as California’s public school system – get acclimated.

The graduates said the program has been transformative.

Erica Sanchez Vallejo, who graduated from the program three years ago, is from Mexico. “Over there parents do not get involved in education,” she said. “Here the focus is on educating the parents and being involved with your child even if you don’t know English. I want to see my daughter go all the way to college and graduate. This is what this program has taught me.”

Isela Ramirez said she has become more involved with her children since graduating from the program, expanding their learning beyond the normal school day.

“I read to them daily,” she said. “They’re involved in sports. I take them to the library. I do arts and crafts with them. I keep them engaged.”